In the first judicial verdict on the genocide committed by Cambodia's Khmer Rouge in the 1970s, a former official of the regime was on Monday pronounced guilty of crimes against humanity and sentenced to 35 years of imprisonment.

The Trial Chamber of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) on Monday convicted Kaing Guek Eav (67), also known as Duch, for his role in the mass execution of the “enemies” of Khmer Rouge at S-21, a security centre which was used as a prison and a killing field between 1975 and 1979. In the court proceedings in Phnom Penh, witnessed by nearly 30,000 people from the public gallery, the Trial Chamber, by a majority, convicted Duch of a range of crimes against humanity such as persecution on political grounds, torture, and extermination.

Yet, taking into account the “illegal detention” that Duch underwent at the hands of the Cambodian military court between 1999 and 2007, the Trial Chamber reduced the pronounced sentence to 30 years of imprisonment.

It was also ruled that he was “further entitled to credit for time already spent in detention” under the jurisdiction of not only the military court but also the ECCC itself during his judicial trial.

An ECCC official, Reach Sambath, later told The Hindu from Phnom Penh that Duch would be required to serve 19 years in prison.

And, the defence lawyer indicated that Duch would now file an appeal before the Supreme Chamber of the ECCC, said Mr. Reach Sambath.

Duch, who at one stage apologised to the court for his crimes and later sought acquittal, would now have 30 days to appeal. Several million Cambodians watched the live telecast of Monday's court proceedings.

Many, who had lost their friends and relatives in the Khmer Rouge killing fields, were “not satisfied” with the sentencing of Duch to something less than life imprisonment. Others not so affected expressed an “understanding” of the logic behind the verdict, said Mr. Reach Sambath.

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