[JURIST] Accused former Khmer Rouge leader Kaing Guek Eav [TrialWatch profile; JURIST news archive], more commonly known as "Duch," unexpectedly asked to be released at the close of his trial on Friday. His request before the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) [official website] was a complete departure [NYT report] from his previous conduct, as he has cooperated with the trial and repeatedly apologized to his victims and their families. His lawyers took different approaches in their closing remarks, with one stating that his client was not guilty and the other asking for clemency. If Kaing is found guilty, he will serve 40 years in jail, so long as this departure from his earlier cooperation does not return him to the maximum sentence of life imprisonment [LAT report]. A verdict is expected in March.
Kaing is the first of eight ex-Khmer Rouge officials expected to be tried before the ECCC, which recently announced the establishment of an independent counselor to oversee anti-corruption efforts [JURIST reports]. In August Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] asked the ECCC to determine the scope of its prosecutions [JURIST report] "to thwart growing perceptions that court decisions are directed by the government." In February, HRW warned that ECCC trials were in danger of being tainted for their failure to follow fair trial standards, and in January a Cambodian court agreed to hear a corruption case [JURIST reports] involving two ECCC judges.