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Khmer Rouge torturer is caged for role in slaughterT

It was 9.53am when the curtain in front of the glass-enclosed court chamber finally swept back. When it did, it revealed Kaing Guek Eav, once head of the Khmer Rouge's most notorious jail, sitting at a bench, his face expressionless, and dressed in a blue shirt with trousers pulled up unnaturally high over a rounded stomach.

When he was escorted to his place in the dock a few moments later, the man known as Comrade Duch looked tiny and unremarkable. Yet over the next 60 minutes the chair of the court methodically outlined why this United Nations-backed tribunal had concluded that the slightly-built man with thinning grey hair was responsible for “heinous” offences that constituted crimes against humanity.

Crucially, they confirmed that his claim to have been simply following orders constituted no defence whatsoever.

The court ruled that the 67-year-old former maths teacher, who had overseen and run the Tuol Sleng interrogation centre where 16,000 people were tortured and questioned before being sent to die, should be sentenced to 35 years in jail. Taking into account time already served, the actual sentence was reduced to 18 years, 10 months.

If the authorities grant him parole, the man responsible for overseeing some of the 20th century's most vivid cruelty — on a single day in June 1977, he authorised the execution of 160 children — could spend less than 13 years in jail.

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