Bangkok, July 30 (IANS/EFE) The special tribunal for Cambodia Wednesday opened the second trial in Phnom Penh against the last two surviving leaders of the Khmer Rouge regime, who face charges for crimes against humanity and genocide.

The accused, who deny the charges, are the former number two of the organisation, Nuon Chea, 88, and former head of state Khieu Samphan, 83.

In this part of the process, the UN-backed court will deal with genocide committed by the Pol Pot regime against the Cham Muslim minority and the Vietnamese population, and the persecution against the community of Buddhist monks.

The Khmer Rouge Maoist regime led by Pol Pot seized power in Cambodia in 1975 and killed some 1.7 million people in its drive to rid the country of capitalism, Western culture and foreign influence during its four-year rule, which ended with the invasion of Vietnamese troops.

Nuon and Khieu will be tried for the regime's policy of forced marriages and rapes, internal purges, the establishment of interrogation and torture centres, forced labour and the purge of officials of the previous government of General Lon Nol.

In its first session, the court will also discuss preliminary matters of procedure, reparations to victims and present a list of potential witnesses.

The court is expected to issue Aug 7 a verdict on the first part of the trial, which focused on the forced evacuation of the population of Phnom Penh and other urban areas of the country, deported and subjected to forced labour in paddy fields and irrigation construction work.

The tribunal decided to divide the court case into several trials, amid fears that the defendants would die before a verdict was handed out.

Initially, the trial also included former foreign affairs minister Ieng Sary, who died in March 2013 at the age of 87, and his wife and former social affairs minister Ieng Thirith, whose case was suspended after she was diagnosed with dementia.

In July 2010, the international court passed its first conviction against Kiang Guek Eav, alias Duch, head of detention and torture centre S-21, where around 16,000 people died.

Duch was initially given a 35-year jail sentence which was extended to life imprisonment by the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, the official name of the court.

Pol Pot died at age 73 in April 1998 in his hideout in the Cambodian jungle, where he was held as a prisoner by his own followers.



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