Top Khmer Rouge leader arrested in Cambodia

Nuon Chea, the top surviving leader of Cambodia's notorious Khmer Rouge, whose radical policies were responsible for the deaths of an estimated 1.7 million people, was arrested today and put in the custody of an UN-supported genocide tribunal.





Police surrounded his home in Pailin in northwestern Cambodia near the Thai border and served him with an arrest warrant in connection with atrocities carried out by the communist group when it held power in the late 1970s.



Officers later took the 82-year-old Nuon Chea — who denies any wrongdoing — into custody and put him into a car and then a helicopter for the capital, Phnom Penh, as his son and dozens of onlookers gathered to watch the historic scene in silence, witnesses said.



"My father is happy to shed light on the Khmer Rouge regime for the world and people to understand," Nuon Say said afterward.



Nuon Say said his mother fainted after seeing her husband taken away by police. He said Nuon Chea rolled down the window of the car and took one last look at his son, and said nothing.



In Phnom Penh, a convoy transported Nuon Chea from a military airport in the capital to the offices of the tribunal, officially known as the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia.



"An initial appearance will be held today during which he will informed of the charges which have been brought against him," the tribunal said in a statement.



"Now the time has come for him to share his version of the history of Khmer Rouge before the court of law," Youk Chhang, director of the Documentation Centre of Cambodia, an independent group researching Khmer Rouge crimes, said today.



"So many people have died. The facts are everywhere. There are plenty of mass graves, prisons, documents, photographs that can show what he did at that time," Youk Chhang said.



Nuon Chea joined the Khmer Rouge in the 1950s in its formative stages as the country's underground communist party, later becoming its chief political ideologue.



Prosecutors for the UN-backed genocide tribunal have said there are five senior Khmer Rouge figures they have recommended for trial in connection with the group's policies causing people's deaths through hunger, illnesses, overwork and execution. Nuon Chea is the second, and highest-ranking, Khmer Rouge leader detained to appear before the panel.



Kaing Guek Eav, commonly known as Duch who headed the former Khmer Rouge S-21 prison, was the first suspect detained by the tribunal on charges of crimes against humanity. He was charged last month. The other suspects have not been publicly named.



Tribunal spokesman Reach Sambath said the co-investigating judges were expected to question Nuon Chea later today.



Critics have warned that Nuon Chea and the other former Khmer Rouge leaders may die before ever seeing a courtroom.



Nuon Chea, considered the right-hand man to Pol Pot, has consistently denied any responsibility for the regime's mass brutality, though he said in an interview with the AP last month that he was ready to face the tribunal.



"I was president of the National Assembly and had nothing to do with the operation of the government," he said in the interview. "Sometimes I didn't know what they were doing because I was in the assembly."



Theary Seng, the director of Centre for Social Development, a nonprofit group monitoring development of the Khmer Rouge tribunal, said Nuon Chea's arrest was "a very good starting point" and "will definitely increase the engagement of the Cambodian people," who have been waiting to see justice done for so long already.



"Even if we don't see a conviction, at least we have witnessed a process" of searching for justice, Theary Seng said.



The late Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot died in 1998 and his former military chief, Ta Mok, died in 2006 in government custody.



Their senior-level colleagues, Ieng Sary, the former foreign minister; and Khieu Samphan, the former head of state, live freely in Cambodia but are in declining health. They are also widely believed to be on the prosecutors' list.



The tribunal was created last year after seven years of contentious negotiations between the United Nations and Cambodia. The government of Prime Minister Hun Sen - a former Khmer Rouge soldier - constantly bullied the world body for control of the joint venture.



Trials are expected to begin early next years after countless delays.

News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Sport
Alexis Sanchez, Radamel Falcao, Diego Costa and Mario Balotelli
football
Sport
Danny Welbeck's Manchester United future is in doubt
footballGunners confirm signing from Manchester United
News
people Emma Watson addresses celebrity nude photo leak
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
footballFeaturing Bart Simpson
News
Katie Hopkins appearing on 'This Morning' after she purposefully put on 4 stone.
peopleKatie Hopkins breaks down in tears over weight gain challenge
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman topped the list of the 30 most influential females in broadcasting
tv
News
Kelly Brook
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Sport
Andy Murray celebrates a shot while playing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
TennisWin sets up blockbuster US Open quarter-final against Djokovic
Arts and Entertainment
Hare’s a riddle: Kit Williams with the treasure linked to Masquerade
booksRiddling trilogy could net you $3m
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
News
news Video - hailed as 'most original' since Benedict Cumberbatch's
News
i100
Life and Style
The longer David Sedaris had his Fitbit, the further afield his walks took him through the West Sussex countryside
lifeDavid Sedaris: What I learnt from my fitness tracker about the world
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Infrastructure Lead, (Trading, VCE, Converged, Hyper V)

£600 - £900 per day: Harrington Starr: Infrastructure Lead, (Trading infrastru...

Software Solution Technician - Peterborough - up to £21,000

£20000 - £21000 per annum + Training: Ashdown Group: Graduate Software Solutio...

Supply teachers needed- Worthing!

£100 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Crawley: Supply teachers needed for va...

Year 4 Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Plymouth: Year 4 Primary Teachers needed Rand...

Day In a Page

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering