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Khmer Rouge Genocide Trial Opens In Cambodia

Former Khmer Rouge Foreign Minister Ieng Sary
Cambodia's UN-backed war crimes court today opened the long-awaited trial of the three most senior surviving Khmer Rouge leaders, more than three decades after the end of the Maoist regime's reign of terror.

Nuon Chea, also known as "Brother Number Two," former head of state Khieu Samphan, and former Foreign Minister Ieng Sary are accused of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity.

The defendants -- who are all in their 80s -- deny the charges.

About 1.7 million people -- about one-third of the population -- are believed to have been murdered, or died from overwork or starvation during the Khmer Rouge's 1975-79 regime.

"Brother Number One," Pol Pot, the Khmer Rouge supreme leader, died in 1998 without have faced full trial.

The only senior Khmer Rouge official to have been convicted so far is Kaing Guek Eav, better known as Comrade Duch, the commander of a notorious prison.

compiled from agency reports