This Article is From Mar 14, 2013

Ex-Khmer Rouge minister facing war crimes trial is dead: court

Ex-Khmer Rouge minister facing war crimes trial is dead: court

File photo

Phnom Penh: Former Khmer Rouge leader Ieng Sary, who was on trial for genocide and war crimes, died in hospital on Thursday at the age of 87, a spokesman for the UN-backed court said.

"We can confirm that Ieng Sary died this morning after being hospitalised since March 4," spokesman Lars Olsen said. The oldest of three former leaders on trial, he was foreign minister in Pol Pot's murderous regime.

The death of the former student radical, who emerged as one of the few public faces of the Khmer Rouge during its brutal rule in the late 1970s, will heighten fears the remaining defendants may not survive to see justice at the court.

Ieng Sary, along with "Brother Number Two" Nuon Chea, 86, and one-time head of state Khieu Samphan, 81, denied charges including war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity.

Born to a poor ethnic Khmer family in south Vietnam, the former foreign minister repeatedly denied knowledge of the mass executions that came to define the Khmer Rouge regime, and claimed he had no powers of arrest.

His wife Ieng Thirith, the regime's former social affairs minister, was also supposed to be in the dock but she was deemed unfit for trial last year after being diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease.

Led by "Brother Number One" Pol Pot, who died in 1998, the Khmer Rouge wiped out nearly a quarter of Cambodia's population through starvation, overwork or execution in a bid to create an agrarian utopia during their rule.