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Khmer Rouge 'First Lady' unfit for trial

The international tribunal trying the top commanders of Cambodia's Khmer Rouge regime ruled yesterday that the former social affairs minister, Ieng Thirith, was mentally ill and unfit to stand trial.

Ieng Thirith, the 79-year-old once known as the "Khmer Rouge First Lady", will be released from detention today if no appeal is lodged by prosecutors, the Extraordinary Chambers in the Court of Cambodia (ECCC) said in a statement.

The decision may be another blow to Cambodians seeking closure from the horrors of Pol Pot's "killing fields" revolution from 1975-79 that left an estimated 1.7 million people dead byreuters execution, torture, starvation or disease. It means the ECCC's high-profile second case, in which opening statements will be read on Monday, could now feature just three defendants, "Brother Number Two" Nuon Chea, ex-president Khieu Samphan and former foreign minister Ieng Sary.