Khmer Rouge duo deny 'Killing Fields' role as case nears end

Khmer Rouge duo deny 'Killing Fields' role as case nears end
Khmer Rouge former president Khieu Samphan (front L) is seen at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), on the outskirts of Phnom Penh in this handout picture dated October 31, 2013.

PHNOM PENH - It might be the last time Cambodians hear the words of the elderly men prosecutors say were most responsible for the deaths and suffering of millions under the Khmer Rouge's 1970s "Killing Fields" rule.

There were no last-ditch pleas for forgiveness from the two defendants, the right-hand men of the late Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot, who protested their innocence in their final arguments before a UN-backed court hoping to deliver justice before the accused die, or donors' funding dries up.

"Brother Number Two" Nuon Chea, 87, and former president Khieu Samphan showed no emotion on Thursday when delivering statements to the people they are accused of betraying when they ruled from 1975 to 1979, when Cambodia was turned into a virtual slave labour camp in which as many as 2.2 million died of disease, starvation, torture and execution.

Khieu Samphan, 81, insisted he was a leader without power, who took no decisions that resulted in atrocities. He said he was paying the price for being close to Pol Pot.

"For the presumption that I am a monster ... you seem to believe that I am guilty. All of you believe that I should have foreseen what would happen," he said, his eyes fixed on a sheet of paper in front of him.

"To date, everyone wants only one thing from me - my admission of guilt on the charges of crimes that I never ever committed, at all.

"Whatever I did was to protect the weak, uphold the respect for fundamental rights and to build a Cambodia that was strong, independent and peaceful," he said.

Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan are the only two defendants left in the complex case 002, which initially had four, charged with crimes against humanity and genocide, among other offences.

Former foreign minister Ieng Sary, who was educated in France, like Pol Pot, Khieu Samphan and other Cambodian communist leaders, died this year and his wife, former social affairs minister Ieng Thirith, was diagnosed with Alzheimer's and declared unfit for trial.

The two face a maximum sentence of life in prison.

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