Page last updated at 08:33 GMT, Wednesday, 21 May 2008 09:33 UK

Ex-Khmer Rouge minister in court

Ieng Thirith in court on 21 May 2008
Ieng Thirith was the most powerful woman in the Khmer Rouge

The Khmer Rouge's former social welfare minister has made her first appearance at Cambodia's UN-backed genocide court.

Ieng Thirith, 76, is seeking bail on charges of crimes against humanity relating to the regime's brutal four-year rule in the late 1970s.

Three of the five former Khmer Rouge leaders held by the court have already had their requests for bail denied.

One of them, 76-year-old Khieu Samphan, was taken to hospital on Wednesday morning with high blood pressure.

A spokesman for the tribunal, Reach Sambath, said that his condition not urgent "but necessitated attention".

The former head of state's efforts to write a book had led to stress, he said.


Ieng Thirith was one of the Khmer Rouge's founding members and its most powerful woman.

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
Up to two million people thought to have died from starvation, overwork or execution

Her husband, Ieng Sary, was foreign minister and her sister was married to the movement's leader, Pol Pot.

Prosecutors say that as social welfare minister, she knew that tens of thousands of people were dying from starvation and disease on brutal collective farms - but did nothing to stop the disaster.

Ieng Thirith denies any wrongdoing. In court her lawyer argued that she required regular treatment for both mental and physical conditions.

A ruling on bail is expected next month. The trials themselves are expected to begin later in the year.

The Khmer Rouge ruled Cambodia from 1975 to 1979. During this period an estimated 1.7 million people died from starvation or overwork as leaders tried to create a classless agrarian society.

Hundreds of thousands of the educated middle classes were tortured and executed.

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