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Former KRouge prison deputy denies torture

Written By vibykhmer on Tuesday, July 14, 2009 | 9:56 AM

A journalist takes pictures of a live feed of Mam Nai, a former chief of interrogation at the Khmer Rouge's S-21 prison, during the trial of the Khmer Rouge regime's chief torturer Kaing Guek Eav, also known as Duch, on the outskirts of Phnom Penh July 14, 2009. REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea

The former deputy head of the Khmer Rouge's main prison has denied he had tortured prisoners as he sought to play down his position in Cambodia's late 1970s hardline regime.

Mam Nai, 76, told the UN-backed war crimes trial of former jail chief Duch that his role had been only to question inmates at the notorious Tuol Sleng prison.

"I was just a plain and simple interrogating cadre," Mam Nai said, addressing the court as a witness, not a defendant.

"I only interrogated prisoners without applying torture. It is my understanding that applying torture brings untrue confessions."

His former boss Duch is accused of overseeing the torture and execution of around 15,000 people who passed through Tuol Sleng.

Although documents from the regime say Mam Nai was Duch's deputy and tortured prisoners into confessing espionage, he said he only interrogated "not important" inmates and used psychological tricks rather than abuse.

"When I asked the person about their biography and activities, it was not difficult at all (to get a confession)," Mam Nai said.

"If a prisoner refused to respond... I instructed guards to take prisoners back to their cell to think for a while, to reflect on their positive and negative activities," he added.

Mam Nai, whose Khmer Rouge nom de guerre was Chan, went on to tell the court that he was "unclear" on the organising structure of the notorious detention centre and knew nothing of mass killings there.

The 66-year-old Duch, real name Kaing Guek Eav, has accepted responsibility for his role in governing the jail and begged forgiveness from victims near the start of his trial for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

But he has consistently rejected claims by prosecutors that he held a central leadership role in the Khmer Rouge, and maintains he never personally killed anyone.

Led by Pol Pot, who died in 1998, the Khmer Rouge emptied Cambodia's cities in a bid to forge a communist utopia. Up to two million people died of starvation, overwork, torture and execution during the 1975-79 regime.

Four other former Khmer Rouge leaders are currently in detention and are expected to face trial next year.

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