Cambodian police Monday arrested the ex-foreign minister of the Khmer Rouge regime and his wife on charges of crimes against humanity, officials said.
Ieng Sary and his wife Ieng Thirith were arrested at their home at dawn, becoming the latest figures from the 1970s government to await trial before Cambodia's U.N.-based genocide tribunal.
"Today, Ieng Sary and Ieng Thirith have been arrested in execution of an arrest warrant, delivered by the co-investigating judges, for crimes against humanity and war crimes as regards Ieng Sary and for crimes against humanity concerning Ieng Thirith," a tribunal statement read.
The U.N.-backed tribunal was created last year after seven years of contentious negotiations between the United Nations and Cambodia. Critics have warned that the aging suspects could die before ever seeing a courtroom.
Two others — Nuon Chea, the former Khmer Rouge ideologist, and Kaing Guek Eav, also known as Duch, who headed the Khmer Rouge S-21 torture center — were detained earlier this year on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Khmer Rouge Leaders Avoid Trial
The radical policies of the communist Khmer Rouge, who held power from 1975 to 1979, are widely blamed for the deaths of some 1.7 million people from starvation, disease, overwork and execution.
None of the group's leaders has faced trial.
According to a tribunal filing, Ieng Sary "promoted, instigated, facilitated, encouraged and/or condoned the perpetration of the crimes" when the Khmer Rouge held power. It said evidence of his participation in crimes included planning, directing and coordinating the Khmer Rouge "policies of forcible transfer, forced labor and unlawful killings."
Ieng Sary, thought to be 77, served as a deputy prime minister as well as foreign minister in the Khmer Rouge regime. He has repeatedly denied responsibility for any crimes.
He was sentenced to death in absentia in August 1979, eight months after a Vietnam-led resistance movement overthrew the Khmer Rouge regime.
His wife, believed to be 75, is accused of participating in "planning, direction, coordination and ordering of widespread purges and unlawful killing or murder of staff members from within the Ministry of Social Affairs," the filing said. The sister-in-law of the late Pol Pot, the top leader of the Khmer Rouge who died in 1998, Ieng Thirith is deeply entwined in the group's leadership.
Ieng Sary became the first member of the inner circle to defect. He was later seized by Khmer Rouge guerrillas.
By September 1996, Ieng Sary received amnesty for breaking away from his comrades-in-arms, and the death sentence against him was lifted.
From NPR reports and The Associated Press