Former Khmer Rouge head of state Khieu Samphan, 83, said he was feeling dizzy Thursday, just hours after the second phase of a United Nations-backed trial got underway, and remained in hospital the following day.
Lars Olsen, the court’s legal communications officer, told The Anadolu Agency that hearing dates had been pushed back to next Thursday, January 15.
Trial Chamber President Nil Nonn had told the court Thursday that hearings would resume the following day if the octogenarian was given the all-clear from doctors at the Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital.
However, one of Samphan’s lawyers, Kong Sam Onn, told the AA by telephone Friday that his client was re-examined in the morning and told to rest.
"He is still under treatment because of high blood pressure and also respiratory problems -- he has bronchitis -- so doctors are now treating him and it may be about five days, according to the doctor’s report this morning," he said.
Sam Onn said that although Samphan appeared better than the previous day, there were still no guarantees that he could appear when hearings are scheduled to resume next week.
"Of course he is going to be in court" if he is better, the lawyer said. "He wants to attend the hearings all the time."
Samphan and Pol Pot’s deputy Nuon Chea, 88, were sentenced to life in prison in August in the trial’s first phase, accused of crimes against humanity in connection with their role in mass evacuations.
The second phase is significantly broader in scope, encompassing charges of genocide against Cambodian Muslims and Buddhists as well as forced labor, murders and purges. With this fresh delay, however, it has yet to get fully off the ground.
It was supposed to begin late last year, but had to be adjourned after Samphan’s lawyers boycotted proceedings to file an appeal against his earlier conviction. They said they could not simultaneously draft it and defend him in court.
The ECCC accused the lawyers of misconduct and referred them to their home-country bars for potential disciplinary action, but was nonetheless forced to delay the trial.
The first phase of the trial, which ran from late 2011 until 2013, was also marked by frequent delays due to the defendants’ ill health and old age. Nuon Chea in particular frequently had to watch proceedings while reclining in a holding cell in the court’s basement rather than sitting inside the courtroom.
In March 2013, a third defendant Ieng Sary, the Khmer Rouge’s foreign minister who was often seen as the regime’s third-most powerful figure, died in the middle of the trial.
Sary’s wife Ieng Thirith, who was the regime’s social action minister, was originally part of the case before being deemed unfit for trial due to age-related dementia.
On Thursday, judges did hear from the trial’s first witness, who testified about his experiences imprisoned in the regime’s southwestern zone, but the remainder of his time on the stand will only resume when the court is back in session.
The reign of the ultra-Maoist group -- which seized control of Cambodia in 1975 and ruled for four years -- saw about 1.7 million people killed through execution, starvation and overwork.