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Khmer Rouge torturer weeps over mass grave

Latest update : 2008-02-26

'Duch', the Khmer Rouge's presumed chief torturer, wept as he led the UN-backed court through the mass grave of Tuol Seng. At least 14,000 people were tortured under Pol Pot's regime between 1975 and 1979.

CHOEUNG EK, Cambodia, Feb 26 (Reuters) - The chief torturer
under the Khmer Rouge "Killing Fields" regime wept and prayed
on Tuesday as he led the judges who will try him for crimes
against humanity around the mass graves for some of its

Duch, also known as Kaing Guek Eav, accompanied 80 judges,
lawyers and other officials of a U.N.-backed tribunal to the
129 graves, uncovered after a Vietnamese invasion sent the
Khmer Rouge back to the jungles in 1979.

"I saw Duch kneel in front of the trees where Khmer Rouge
soldiers smashed children to death," a policeman told reporters
after the four-hour tour.

"He cried and apologised to the victims" in the former
ricefields outside Phnom Penh, he said.

Stacks of excavated skulls mark the area.

Some of the victims were from the regime's S-21 prison at
the former Tuol Sleng high school in Phnom Penh run by Duch,
now 66.

About 14,000 people -- including a few foreigners accused
of being CIA spies -- went into the jail to be tortured into
confessing to working against a regime deemed responsible for
the deaths of 1.7 million people.

Only a handful emerged alive.

"Duch expressed his sadness and shed tears two to three
times," tribunal spokesman Reach Sambath said. "He held his
palms together to pay respect to the victims in front of the
shrine of skulls."

Duch, the first senior Khmer Rouge official to be detained,
was to lead court officials on a tour of Tuol Sleng on

"This is just one more piece in building a case file. It
can be very useful in court to have a visual representation of
the site in question," Australian court official Helen Jarvis

Tuol Sleng is now a shrine to those killed by the Khmer
Rouge, who also eradicated potential opponents of their back to
"Year Zero" revolution to produce an agrarian utopia through
overwork, starvation and disease.

Detained in 1999 and now a Christian, Duch is expected to
be a key witness in the trials of "Brother Number Two" Nuon
Chea, Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot's right hand man, Khieu
Samphan, president under the regime, Ieng Sary, its foreign
minister, and his wife.

"He could not have committed those crimes alone," Duch
lawyer Kar Savuth said. "He took orders from the top leaders."

Many Cambodians want to hear what Duch will have to say in
trials expected to start in July. The defendants face a maximum
of life in prison.

"I still do not understand why Duch jailed me, killed my
wife and our baby," said Chum Manh, 78, one of the few
survivors of Tuol Sleng.

Nuon Chea is accused of playing a central role in
atrocities by the Khmer Rouge during their 1975-1979 rule,
which they began by driving everyone out of the cities with
whatever they could carry.

He was arrested last year along with Ieng Sary and his
wife, lifelong friends of Pol Pot.

Pol Pot died in 1998 in the final Khmer Rouge redoubt of
Anlong Veng.

Date created : 2008-02-26