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Former Khmer Rouge leader facing genocide probe leaves town at night

[JURIST] Khieu Samphan [Wikipedia profile], the former head of state of Cambodia's Khmer Rouge [JURIST news archive] regime, left his home overnight and headed toward a neighboring province, just hours after prosecutors began compiling evidence [JURIST report] against former Khmer Rouge leaders. It is not clear whether he and his wife fled their home to avoid prosecution or whether the former leader simply left to visit friends. Prosecutors from the Khmer Rouge genocide tribunal [official task force website; timeline] began their formal investigation Monday of criminal acts allegedly committed by surviving leaders of the communist Khmer Rouge regime which ruled Cambodia from 1975-1978 and was responsible for the deaths of at least 1.5 million Cambodians by execution, forced hardships, or starvation in the so-called "Killing Fields." AP has more.

In a related development, potential witnesses in the upcoming genocide trials, which are expected to begin next year [JURIST report], have gone into hiding. Witnesses, both former prison guards that played a small role in the Khmer Rouge regime and victims of the regime, fear they will not have adequate protections if they testify before the genocide tribunal. Top genocide researcher Youk Chhang, head of the Documentation Center of Cambodia [advocacy website], believes that two missing prison guards that worked at Tuol Sleng [Wikipedia backgrounder], the Khmer Rouge's main torture center, have gone into hiding for fear that their testimony may open themselves up to prosecution. AFP has more.

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