Judges visit former Khmer Rouge heartland seeking witnesses for forthcoming trials.
But on Thursday Nuon Chea told the court that fears for his safety were exaggerated because he had been living in “peace and harmony” at his home in Pailin near the Thai border.
“I have no desire to leave my beloved country,” he told the court in the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh. “No one is worried about my security.”
|Nuon Chea: ‘Brother No. 2’|
Born in 1923, Nuon Chea is the most senior surviving Khmer Rouge leader
Served as deputy to Khmer Rouge leader, Pol Pot, and was group’s top ideologue for more than 30 years
Played a key role in carrying out Khmer Rouge plan to relocate millions of Cambodians to vast collective farms, which later became the notorious “killing fields”
Arrested in September 2007, at his home in Pailin near the Thai border
Facing charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity
His Dutch lawyer, Michiel Pestman, failed to turn up in court on Monday and his replacement, Victor Koppe, was barred for not having proper accreditation.
The tribunal decided to resume the hearing after Koppe was formally sworn in by the Cambodian Bar Association, and was able to present his client’s appeal on Thursday.
Nuon Chea, 81, is charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity including “murder, torture, imprisonment, persecution, extermination, deportation, forcible transfer, enslavement and other inhumane acts”.
Nuon Chea, who was arrested last September, is one of five former Khmer Rouge leaders awaiting trial before the “Killing Fields” tribunal, expected to start later this year.
The former deputy to Pol Pot, the notorious leader of the Khmer Rouge who died in 1998, has denied guilt saying he was not a “cruel” man, but “a patriot”.
He has also argued that the tribunal’s investigating judges did not have sufficient grounds to detain him.
Nuon Chea is accused of being the architect of the Khmer Rouge’s killing machine, playing a leading role in the deaths of some 1.7 million people during the group’s 1975-79 rule.
During that period, the Khmer Rouge emptied Cambodia‘s cities, exiling millions to rural areas in a bid to forge an agrarian utopia, outlawing schools, religion and currency.
Nuon Chea surrendered to the Cambodian government in 1998 after the final remnants of the Khmer Rouge collapsed in 1998 and he was given a formal pardon.