Former Khmer Rouge foreign minister, has appeared before Cambodia’s genocide tribunal, in order to appeal against his detention.
Ieng Sary (photo), 82, has been charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity, committed during the Maoist regime’s four-year rule in the late 1970s.
The UN-backed tribunal detains five former leaders of the Khmer Rouge, including Ieng Sary.
While the Khmer Rouge tried to create an agrarian society, hundreds of thousands starved, and many others were tortured and executed for being perceived as educated. The brutal regime is thought to have killed some 1.7 million people.
Trials are expected to begin later in the year. The hearing at the court took place in the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh, and were attended by about 300 people.
The BBC’s Guy Delauney reports from Phnom Penh that Ieng Sary is the most prominent surviving Khmer Rouge leader, and that in parts of Cambodia, he is still viewed as an influential and respected figure.
12 years ago, after reaching a deal with the government, resulting in the eventual surrender of the Khmer Rouge, Ieng Sary received a royal pardon.
That is why he should not be facing charges now, say his lawyers. They will also argue that a trial would amount to double jeopardy.
In 1979, the Khmer Rouge were ousted by Vietnamese-backed forces, which tried Ieng Sary in absentia and found him guilty of genocide. But the pardon overturned that verdict.
BBC’s correspondent adds that Cambodians who survived Khmer Rouge prison camps feel particularly strongly about the former foreign minister.
Many of them were well-educated people, and after personal appeals from Ieng Sary, they returned to the country in order to help rebuild Cambodia. On arrival, they were arrested and thrown into brutal detention centres.
The genocide court has also charged the former social welfare minister Ieng Thirith, Ieng Sary’s wife.