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Khmer Rouge’s 'first lady' freed by war crimes court

The first lady of Cambodia's notorious Khmer Rouge regime has been freed by a war crimes tribunal in Phnom Penh. Her release comes after it was determined she was not fit to stand trial.

Ieng Thirith (Photo: MARK PETERS / ECCC HANDOUT dpa)

Völkermordprozess in Kambodscha Ieng Thirith

The UN-backed tribunal finally freed Ieng Thirith on Sunday after deciding on a provisional set of conditions for her release.

Court spokeswoman Yuko Maeda confirmed the 80-year-old - who remains accused of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide - was released "to her family."

Ieng Thirith, the most senior female figure in the Khmer Rouge, had been found by doctors to be suffering from Alzheimer's Disease.

A decision to free her was made on Thursday, but the release was delayed after prosecutors called for stricter conditions. She had been in detention since 2007.

Temporary conditions have now been put in place, with longer-term arrangements to be decided at a later date.

One of the few women in the leadership of the Khmer Rouge, the Paris-educated former social affairs minister and sister-in-law of regime leader Pol Pot is linked with some of the movement's most drastic policies.

The tribunal believes that between 1.7 million and 2.2 million people - about a quarter of the population at the time - died in less than four years of rule by the Khmer Rouge between 1975 and 1979. The movement emptied the cities, killing its victims through starvation, forced labor and execution as it pursued the ambition of creating a rural, agrarian ideal society.

Thirith's husband, former Foreign Minister Ieng Sary, is currently on trial along with the regime's deputy leader and chief ideologue Nuon Chea and former head of state Khieu Samphan. The three deny charges including war crimes and genocide.

rc/mkg (AFP, dpa, EPD)