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Khmer Rouge jailer testifies against leaders

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[March 19, 2012]  PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) -- The Khmer Rouge's chief jailer began a week of testimony Monday at Cambodia's U.N.-backed tribunal against three of the regime's surviving leaders who are accused of crimes against humanity.

It was the first courtroom appearance by Kaing Guek Eav -- also known as Duch -- since February, when the tribunal's appeals court sentenced him to life imprisonment for committing "shocking and heinous" crimes against the Cambodian people.

An estimated 1.7 million people were killed during the regime's 1970's rule by execution and torture or died from starvation, hard labor or lack of medical care.

Duch's testimony Monday covered preliminary information and background about his role as a prison commander but did not address the three senior Khmer Rouge figures currently on trial.

They are 85-year-old Nuon Chea, the Khmer Rouge's chief ideologist and No. 2 leader; 80-year-old Khieu Samphan, an ex-head of state -- both of whom were present in the courtroom. Ieng Sary, the 86-year-old former foreign minister, was granted permission to watch from a private room due to back trouble that prevents him from sitting for long periods.

All three are accused of crimes against humanity, genocide, religious persecution, homicide and torture.

Unlike Duch, who admitted his role in the killings and asked for forgiveness, the others say they did no wrong.

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Duch commanded Phnom Penh's top-secret Tuol Sleng prison, code-named S-21, where up to 16,000 people were tortured before being sent for execution at the "killing fields."

During Monday's court appearance he wore a standard blue-and-white prison uniform, which the judge said was unnecessary and ordered security officials to let him wear civilian clothing for the remainder of his testimony.

[Associated Press]

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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