AFORMER deputy chief at Tuol Sleng prison downplayed his role at the notorious detention facility Tuesday, telling Cambodia's war crimes court that he never tortured prisoners, prompting judges to accuse him of having "no fear".
Mam Nai, 76, said he had "no knowledge" at the time of the fate that awaited prisoners at Tuol Sleng, a stance he maintained even after being read grisly testimony from his former boss and shown forced confessions that he had apparently signed.
"I was just a plain and simple interrogating cadre," Mam Nai, wearing fingerless gloves and a krama, told judges.
"I only interrogated prisoners without applying torture. It was my belief that applying torture would lead to untrue confessions," he said.
Mam Nai told the court he had worked with his former boss, prison chief Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch, at the M-13 detention centre in Kampong Speu, where the ex-jailer first taught him how to interrogate.
He said he had "no knowledge" of Tuol Sleng's organisational structure because he worked in an interrogation house separate from the prison.
His repeated denials prompted judges to question, at various points in his testimony, whether he suffered from memory, vision and hearing problems.
Mam Nai said he had fallen from his house once, which he said had affected his memory.
After reading out an extensive list of Mam Nai's academic achievements, Judge Sylvia Cartwright asked why one of the most intelligent people at Tuol Sleng was not aware of how the prison worked.
"In principle ... I was only mindful about my duties," Mam Nai said. He said he had not known that all Tuol Sleng prisoners were presumed guilty, and he told Judge Jean-Marc Lavergne that his only regret was "that [Cambodia] was invaded" by America and Vietnam.
Lavergne then asked if he knew what the words "no fear" meant in English, and Mam Nai responded that he did not.
"In that case, I have no further questions," Lavergne replied.
Witness receives lawyer
Mam Nai's testimony came amid an ongoing row at the court over self-incrimination.
After Duch's defence lawyers argued Monday that Mam Nai could be prosecuted if a legal doctrine being pushed by the prosecution were applied, lawyer Kong Sam Onn was assigned to act as his legal adviser. But the lawyer admitted Tuesday that he was unclear of his role.
Kong Sam Onn defected to the ruling Cambodian People's Party earlier this month after facing disciplinary action by the Bar Association for his representation of SRP lawmaker Mu Sochua.
Co-counsel Francois Roux again urged the prosecution to question whether it was necessary to push for a legal amendment, known as joint criminal enterprise, that he said would make it more likely for subordinates such as Mam Nai to be prosecuted.