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Last Updated: Wednesday, 19 September 2007, 12:56 GMT 13:56 UK
Senior Khmer Rouge leader charged
Nuon Chea on 20 July 2007
Nuon Chea was "Brother Number Two" under the Khmer Rouge

Police in Cambodia have arrested the most senior surviving member of the notorious Khmer Rouge regime as part of a UN-backed genocide investigation.

Nuon Chea, now 82, was flown from his jungle home to the capital, Phnom Penh - and was later charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity

He will face Cambodian and foreign judges at a special genocide tribunal.

He was second-in-command to Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot from 1975-79, when some 1m people are thought to have died.

Nuon Chea, who was also known as "Brother Number Two", has spent the past few decades living freely in Pailin, the movement's former jungle headquarters.

Police and court officials went to his home near the Thai border early on Wednesday to question him, and issue him with an arrest warrant on charges of crimes against humanity.

"He was shaking. His legs looked like they would collapse," neighbour Sok Sothera told the French news agency AFP.

Nuon Chea was then taken under police escort to a helicopter for the flight to Phnom Penh.

"An initial appearance will be held today, during which he will be informed of the charges which have been brought against him," the UN-backed tribunal said in a statement.

Five suspects

Because he was second only to Pol Pot - the regime's "Brother Number One", who died in 1998 - Nuon Chea will be the most senior defendant to be tried by the tribunal.

Maoist regime that ruled Cambodia from 1975-1979
Founded and led by Pol Pot, who died in 1998
Abolished religion, schools and currency in a bid to create agrarian utopia
Brutal regime that did not tolerate dissent
More than a million people thought to have died from starvation, overwork or execution

A Thai-trained lawyer, Nuon Chea rose quickly through the ranks of the Khmer Rouge, as it grew from a small Maoist rebel group to a force capable of taking over the country.

Analysts say he had an important decision-making role in the regime, which instituted radical policies aimed at creating an agrarian utopia, but in reality caused the deaths of more than a million people through hunger, illness, overwork and execution.

Nuon Chea himself has consistently denied any responsibility for the deaths, but earlier this year he indicated he was ready to face the tribunal.

After many long delays, the UN-backed trials are finally expected to begin next year.

Duch, or Kang Kek Ieu, in prison in Phnom Penh on 30 July 2007
Will try cases of genocide and crimes against humanity
Five judges (three Cambodian) sit in trial court
Cases decided by majority
Maximum penalty is life imprisonment
Budget of $56.3m

Only one other suspect, Kang Kek Ieu - also known as Duch - has so far been detained.

Duch, who was arrested in July, was in charge of the notorious S21 jail in Phnom Penh, where more than 17,000 men, women and children are thought to have been imprisoned and brutally tortured.

Four other people are said to be under investigation.

Their names have not been revealed, but are thought to include former president Khieu Samphan - who has been living next door to Nong Chea in Pailin - and Khmer Rouge foreign minister Ieng Sary.

Survivors have welcomed the charges against Nong Chea and Duch, but they have also expressed doubts about whether these elderly leaders will ever be brought to account for their deeds during the Khmer Rouge years.

It is already too late to try Pol Pot, and the regime's military commander and one of Pol Pot's most ruthless henchmen, Ta Mok, died last year.

Footage of Nuon Chea being arrested

Cambodians await Khmer Rouge trials
19 Sep 07 |  Asia-Pacific
Cambodia's brutal Khmer Rouge regime
19 Sep 07 |  Asia-Pacific
First Khmer Rouge leader charged
31 Jul 07 |  Asia-Pacific
Key figures in the Khmer Rouge
31 Jul 07 |  Asia-Pacific
Khmer Rouge trials ready to start
13 Jun 07 |  Asia-Pacific
Rocky road to Khmer Rouge trial
26 Feb 07 |  Asia-Pacific
Surviving the Khmer Rouge
24 Jan 03 |  Asia-Pacific
Timeline: Cambodia
19 Apr 07 |  Country profiles

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