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Ex-leader in court: Khmer Rouge not 'bad people'

Handout / Reuters

Former Khmer Rouge leader "Brother Number Two" Nuon Chea sits in the court room at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) on the outskirts of Phnom Penh in this handout picture taken and provided by the ECCC on Monday, Dec. 5, 2011.

AP reports:

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — The No. 2 leader of Cambodia's brutal Khmer Rouge regime told a court he and his comrades were not "bad people," denying responsibility Monday for the deaths of an estimated 1.7 million Cambodians during their 1970s rule.

Nuon Chea's defiant statements came as the U.N.-backed tribunal began questioning him for the first time since the long-awaited trial of three top regime leaders began late last month. Nuon Chea and two other Khmer Rouge leaders are accused of crimes against humanity, genocide, religious persecution, homicide and torture stemming from the group's 1975-79 reign of terror. All have denied wrongdoing.

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