Former Khmer Rouge leader asks for forgiveness

In the first genocide trial in Cambodia, "Duch" acknowledged he was guilty of crimes against humanity and apologized to victims' families.

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A former Khmer Rouge leader claimed responsibility on Tuesday for crimes committed during the regime's cruel rule. Kaing Guek Eav, widely known as "Duch," is the first Khmer Rouge leader to face a tribunal. He is accused of torture, crimes against humanity, and premeditated murder. His testimony in the ongoing proceedings is expected to implicate four other senior figures of the Khmer Rouge who are currently in custody and awaiting trial.

According to Agence France-Presse (AFP), Duch asked for forgiveness from the families of his victims when admitting to his crimes.

The indictment against Duch, read out before the tribunal on Monday, included gruesome details, reports the BBC.

But AFP adds that even while Duch acknowledged responsibility for his crimes and expressed regret, "he insisted his role was more minor than that portrayed by prosecutors," saying, "I am just a scapegoat and a person who played a role in the killing of the regime."

Duch's confession will not, however, end the trial, reports the Los Angeles Times.

Al Jazeera explains that "Duch, who was a teacher before becoming the Khmer Rouge's chief torturer, faces a maximum penalty of life in prison if convicted. Cambodia has no death penalty."

According to The Christian Science Monitor, Duch's testimony is expected to be help secure the convictions of the four other Khmer Rouge leaders awaiting trial before the tribunal. These include Nuon Chea, the Khmer Rouge's former deputy leader; Khieu Samphan, the former Khmer Rouge head of state; Ieng Sary, the former foreign minister; and his wife, Ieng Thirith, who was the regime's social affairs minister.

Duch's trial has initiated a campaign to hold more Khmer Rouge figures accountable for their actions, reports the Los Angles Times. But current Cambodian government officials are resisting the idea of further trials.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen also believes that further Khmer Rouge trials could result in civil war, reports Reuters.

An editorial in London-based daily The Guardian points out the shortcomings of the tribunal that is overseeing Duch's case.

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