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Key Pol Pot aide held.

PHNOM PENH: Cambodia's "Killing Fields" court charged former Khmer Rouge foreign minister Ieng Sary and his wife yesterday with crimes against humanity, the latest members of Pol Pot's inner circle to face justice. The octogenarian Ieng Sary, who became the international face of the Beijing-backed ultra-Maoist revolution after it was overthrown by a 1979 Vietnamese invasion, also stands accused of war crimes, a spokesman said.

Ieng Sary and Khieu Thirith - sister of Pol Pot's first wife, Khieu Ponnary - were arrested soon after dawn by rifle-toting police who sealed off the Phnom Penh villa where they have lived since cutting a deal and surrendering in 1996.

They were then whisked away in a police convoy to the court compound on the western outskirts of the capital to face the Cambodian and international judges probing their alleged role in one of the 20th century's darkest chapters.

An estimated 1.7 million people were executed or died of torture, disease or starvation under the Khmer Rouge's four-year reign of terror between 1975 and 1979.

Ieng Sary has denied having anything to do with the mass killings but spent much of the 1980s defending Pol Pot at the UN while remnants of his black-shirted guerilla army continued to fight from the jungle.

He and Khieu Thirith are the third and fourth senior cadres to be arrested since the $56m (BD21m) UN-backed tribunal got off the ground in earnest this year after almost a decade of delays.

Duch, who ran the "S-21" interrogation and torture centre at Phnom Penh's former Tuol Sleng high school, has been charged with crimes against humanity, as has "Brother Number Two" Nuon Chea, who is also accused of war crimes.

While Nuon Chea has proclaimed his innocence, Duch has confessed his role in the mass killings and is expected to be a key witness against other senior regime figures.

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Publication:Gulf Daily News (Manama, Bahrain)
Date:May 1, 2008
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