Cambodia court rejects bail for Khmer Rouge 'First Lady'

PHNOM PENH (AFP) - Cambodia's UN-backed genocide tribunal on Monday rejected an appeal by the former "First Lady" of the hardline communist Khmer Rouge government to be released on bail.

Ieng Thirith, 77, the regime's one-time social affairs minister, is one of five top cadres in the sights of the tribunal over atrocities committed during the regime's 1975-1979 rule.

"The appeal is dismissed. The request to be released on bail is inadmissible," said Judge Prak Kimsan, the president of the tribunal's pre-trial chamber.

"There are well-founded reasons to believe that the charged person may have committed crimes with which she has been charged. There is reason to show that people were arrested from her ministry," the judge said.

The judge also cited Ieng Tririth's furious outburst when she first asked for bail in February. She told members of the court that they would be "cursed to the seventh circle of hell."

Ieng Thirith did not appear at Monday's hearing as she was not well enough to get out of bed, her Cambodian lawyer Phat Pouv Seang said.

"We do not agree 100 percent with the court decision and will try to pursue this issue in the trial," he said.

Ieng Thirith has denied her involvement in the crimes committed by the Khmer Rouge, saying that "everything was done by Nuon Chea," the regime's ideologue, who was denied bail last week.

Her husband, former Khmer Rouge foreign minister Ieng Sary, also faces trial by the tribunal.

Up to two million people died of starvation or overwork or were executed under the Khmer Rouge, which dismantled modern Cambodian society in its effort to forge a radical agrarian utopia.

The leader of the regime, Pol Pot, died in 1998. Ieng Thirith's sister Khieu Ponnary was married to him.

The ongoing first Khmer Rouge trial began in February, when the regime's notorious prison chief, Kaing Guek Eav, better known by the alias Duch, went before the court.

The genocide tribunal was convened in 2006 after nearly a decade of fractious talks between the government and United Nations over how to prosecute the former Khmer Rouge leaders. (AFP)

MySinchew 2009.05.11