A former Khmer Rouge [BBC backgrounder] prison guard at the notorious Toul Sleng prison appeared at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) [official website] on Monday to appeal his 35-year prison sentence. Lawyers for Kaing Guek Eav [ECCC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] argued before the ECCC that their client was not a high-ranking member of the Khmer Rouge, but rather a person merely following orders [VOA report], and he should therefore be set free. In contrast, the prosecution, which will present its arguments on Tuesday, is seeking to increase [AFP report] Kaing's prison to sentence to life, but lowered to 45 years in light of time he spent in unlawful detention. Kaing, also known as "Duch," was convicted of committing war crimes and crimes against humanity [JURIST report] for overseeing the torture and killing of 16,000 people. His sentence was reduced to 19 years after the court considered time served as well as other factors. In August of last year, Kaing hired new counsel [JURIST report] to handle the appeals process. Kaing's lawyers filed a notice of an appeal [JURIST report] less than a week later. The ECCC's decision on Kaing's appeal is expected in June.
Kaing unexpectedly asked to be released [JURIST report] at the close of his trial in November 2009. His request was a complete departure from his previous conduct, as he had cooperated with the trial and repeatedly apologized to his victims and their families, mitigating conduct that earned him a reduced sentence from the 40 years prosecutors originally sought. His lawyers took different approaches in their closing remarks, with one stating that his client was not guilty and the other asking for clemency. In March 2009, Kaing accepted responsibility and apologized [JURIST report] for his conduct at the detention facility. He is the first of eight ex-Khmer Rouge officials expected to be tried before the ECCC. In April, the pre-trial chamber of the ECCC dismissed appeals by three other former Khmer Rouge officials [JURIST report] to block the extension of their provision detention. The three prisoners, Ieng Thirith, Ieng Sary and Khieu Samphan, were arrested in November 2007 and face charges of genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, murder, torture and religious persecution.