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Khmer Rouge leader moved to Cambodian prison for genocide sentence

The last surviving Khmer Rouge leader has been transferred to a Cambodian state prison to serve two life sentences after losing his appeal against a genocide conviction, prosecutors said Wednesday.

In its final verdict last year, the kingdom’s UN-backed court upheld the 2018 genocide conviction and life sentence imposed on Khieu Samphan.

The 91-year-old was head of state for the murderous communist regime that wiped out a quarter of the Cambodian population in less than four years in the 1970s.

Khieu Samphan and “Brother Number Two” Nuon Chea, who died in 2019, were also given life sentences by the court in 2014 for crimes against humanity.

Khieu Samphan was arrested in 2007 and had been detained in a special facility at the court.

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“Khieu Samphan was transferred on… January 30, 2023, to Kandal Provincial Prison to continue to serve his two life sentences,” prosecutors said in a statement Wednesday.

Judicial authorities have “taken steps to ensure that Khieu Samphan’s conditions of detention are appropriate for someone of his advanced age, limited mobility, and state of health,” they added.

The prison is about a 20-minute drive from Phnom Penh.

When he appeared in court in September Khieu Samphan looked frail and sat hunched in a wheelchair in the dock, listening intently to the lengthy ruling through headphones.

His genocide conviction relates to the persecution of ethnic-minority Vietnamese, seen by the Khmer Rouge as treacherous enemies within.

The hybrid court — with both Cambodian and international judges — was set up to try the senior leaders of the Khmer Rouge, which wiped out about two million people through starvation, torture, forced labour and mass executions during its 1975-79 rule.

Regime chief Pol Pot, known as “Brother Number One”, never faced justice, dying in 1998 before the court was established. AFP