Academic and author Stephen Heder continued giving evidence at the Khmer Rouge tribunal yesterday, over the protestations of Nuon Chea defender Victor Koppe, who, earlier in the day, told the court that new evidence necessitated the postponement of Heder’s testimony.
After a brief closed session, Koppe was permitted to read aloud an email he received the day before from the producer of the documentaries Enemies of the People and One Day at Tuol Po Chrey, alleging that he was in possession of footage that would “vindicate exactly the position [the defence] have taken for months”.
The email insisted Nuon Chea had never admitted to the summary execution of top Lon Nol regime officials, and that Tuol Po Chrey “was a massacre ordered by Ros Nim, not central command”.
Koppe, arguing that “TCW-382 may be in possession of info that is directly exculpatory to Nuon Chea” which, furthermore, “directly corroborates the positions we have made about command structures within the CPK for years”, said that Heder’s testimony should be delayed pending further investigation, since the claim may pertain to cadres Heder had interviewed.
Clearly incensed by the request, prosecutor Keith Raynor slammed Koppe’s “scandalous” submission, saying that whatever evidence the film’s producers may or may not have, the defence introduced Heder “as a sideshow to this application”.
“See through this charade for what it is. It’s showboating. It’s a stunt – another stunt from the same team.”
The court ultimately sided with Raynor, and proceeded with Heder’s testimony, though little was discussed that couldn’t be found in his numerous publications, particularly Cambodian Communism and Vietnamese Model, which was cited at length by the prosecution.
The lengthy passages were often followed by questions asking Heder to confirm the source already listed in the book’s footnotes, prompting objections from both defence teams, with Koppe summing up the sentiment, saying,
“if the purpose of this is to simply read a passage then ask a seemingly meaningless question, then this is a waste of the court’s time”.
Objecting to one response, Khieu Samphan defender Arthur Vercken said Heder, who had refused to appear as an expert, was “slipping” into the role of one, and argued that Heder had been called as a witness to testify on his methods as an investigator for the tribunal.
Heder’s testimony on that subject has been hotly anticipated thanks, in part, to the fact that the interviews done by court investigators have been the subject of multiple defence accusations of incompleteness, incorrectness and impropriety. Judge Sylvia Cartwright, however, seemed to dash any hope of such questioning before it began, telling Heder that, due to “certain rules . . . we don’t look at the investigation”.
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