September 17, 2012 in Nation/World

Cambodia releases genocide defendant

Sopheng Cheang Associated Press

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia – Cambodia’s war crimes tribunal set free a former leader of the Khmer Rouge on Sunday, upholding a decision that has outraged survivors seeking an explanation of the mass killings committed more than 30 years ago.

Eighty-year-old Ieng Thirith, who has been declared mentally unfit for trial, was driven out of the U.N.-backed tribunal’s compound by family members.

She served as social affairs minister during the Khmer Rouge’s 1975-’79 rule, during which an estimated 1.7 million people died of execution, medical neglect, overwork and starvation.

The tribunal initially announced its decision to free Ieng Thirith on Thursday, saying medical experts had determined there was no prospect for her to be tried due to a degenerative mental illness that was probably Alzheimer’s disease.

Prosecutors filed an appeal.

On Sunday, the tribunal’s supreme court said it had accepted the appeal, which is expected to be heard later this month.

The tribunal said Ieng Thirith must inform the court of her address, must turn in her passport and must not leave the country, and must report to the court whenever it summons her.

Ieng Thirith was the Khmer Rouge’s highest-ranking woman and also a sister-in-law of the group’s top leader, Pol Pot, who died in 1998.

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