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Former Khmer Rouge leader promises cooperation with genocide court

Former Khmer Rouge head of state, Khieu Samphan [case profile, PDF], on Thursday promised to reveal information about of the communist Khmer Rouge regime [JURIST news archive; BBC backgrounder] that governed Cambodia during the 1970s. Samphan told the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) [official website; JURIST news archive] that he would cooperate with the tribunal [AP report] responsible for trying four former Khmer Rouge leaders. Samphan has repeatedly denied any involvement in the genocide, indicating in books and interviews that he was not responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Cambodian citizens. The ECCC began the initial hearings [materials; agenda, PDF; JURIST report] in the trial of the former Khmer Rouge leaders, including Samphan, Nuon Chea, who was second-in-command and the group's chief ideologist, ex-foreign minister Ieng Sary, and his wife, Ieng Thirith [case profiles, PDF], on Monday.

The Khmer Rouge have been blamed for the deaths of some 1.7 million people [PPU backgrounder] from starvation, disease, overwork and execution between 1975 and 1979. The UN-backed ECCC was established in 2001 to investigate and try those responsible for the Cambodian genocide that resulted in the deaths of approximately one-third of the Cambodian population. Khieu Samphan defended [JURIST report] the late Khmer Rouge dictator Pol Pot in his 2007 book, denying that he was responsible for genocide. Nuon Chea was arrested and charged in September 2007 and said that he was never in the position to order the deaths attributed to him, but that he would cooperate with the ECCC [JURIST reports]. Ieng Thirith and Ieng Sary were also arrested and charged in September 2007. The ECCC handed down its first and only conviction [JURIST report] last year against Kaing Guek Eav [TrialWatch profile], better known as "Duch", who was in charge of the notorious S-21 prison in Phnom Penh.

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