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Samphan’s Appeal Against Life Sentence Wraps Up

Phnom Penh: Pol Pot’s last surviving henchman now has over a year to wait to learn if his appeal against his life sentence has been successful. Khieu Samphan’s four-day hearing came to an end on Thursday afternoon in the Supreme Court Chamber of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia. The 90-year-old is serving a life term for genocide and crimes against humanity.

Khieu Samphan has strongly denied all allegations against him. The accusations which saw him sentenced to life in prison. Facing international prosecutors on Thursday, Samphan says he was only ever protecting the Cambodian people - protecting them against an invading army. He’s referring to the Vietnamese of whom he was accused of committing genocide. He claims he knew nothing about Pol Pot's crimes. He says even to this day, he has no idea where genocide or any crimes against humanity were actually committed.

"I declare that I cannot accept the accusation - that I was involved in a plot to commit crimes against my compatriots including the Cham or the Vietnamese. Many years after sitting as the defendant, at the end of this long case, it is important for me to inform you, especially the Cambodian people, that I have never wanted to commit crimes against my compatriots or against anyone else. No matter what you decide, I will die always remembering the suffering of my Cambodian people. I will die seeing that I am alone in front of you. I am charged symbolically, rather than for my actual deeds."

Samphan has highlighted that he only ever wanted the Kingdom of Cambodia to have independence and sovereignty where his compatriots could live together in harmony. The national and international prosecutors have said Samphan played a big role in decision-making, with him being head of state during the Khmer Rouge.

 According to court spokesperson, Neth Pheaktra, it could be late next year before the court hands down its ruling, although National Co-prosecutor Chea Leang says that they do not have a specific date, and while Samphan’s age has to be considered, the matter must go through due process.

Khieu Samphan says that as he is living his life in prison anyway, he cannot help but cry out loudly that the border problem between Cambodia and Vietnam still exists today. He insists that he has committed no crime, but it’ll be up to the judges to examine all the grounds of Samphan's appeal and whether he’ll end up dying in prison.

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