26 Jul 2010

Khmer Rouge jailer gets 35 years

9:41 pm on 26 July 2010

A United Nations-backed tribunal has sentenced a senior Khmer Rouge commander to 35 years in prison in its first verdict on the Killing Fields revolution blamed for 1.7 million deaths in Cambodia three decades ago.

But Kaing Guek Eav, 67, known as Comrade Duch, will serve only 19 years after the court subtracted 16 years for time already served.

The former schoolteacher admitted during the eight-month trial to overseeing the torture and killing of more than 14,000 people, but said he was only following orders.

Duch betrayed no emotion as the verdict was read. Some Cambodians wept loudly in the courtroom.

He was found guilty of murder, torture, rape, inhumane acts, crimes against humanity and other charges for running Tuol Sleng, a converted school also known as S-21.

The head of the tribunal said mitigating factors stopped the judges from sentencing Duyk to life imprisonment.

Among his victims was New Zealander Kerry Hamill, one of three foreigners captured when their yacht was blown off course into Cambodian waters in 1978. They were tortured and killed at the prison.

His brother, rower Rob Hamill said he was hoping to meet Duch to get some answers about his brother's death.

Former New Zealand diplomat and government minister from the Muldoon era, Hugh Templeton, said the court decision would mark a milestone in Cambodia's healing.

Former New Zealand governor-general Dame Silvia Cartwright was one of two international judges who, along with three Cambodian judges, decided Comrade Duch's fate.