Cambodian police arrested the top surviving Khmer Rouge leader Wednesday. Nuon Chea appears before a U.N-backed genocide tribunal for his role in the 1970s Cambodian regime blamed for the deaths of 1.7 million people.
Police surrounded his home in Pailin in northwestern Cambodia near the Thai border and served him with an arrest warrant on charges of crimes against humanity, police Capt. Sem Sophal said.
Officers later took the 82-year-old Nuon Chea - who denies any wrongdoing - into custody and put him into a car and then a helicopter for the capital, Phnom Penh, as his son and dozens of onlookers gathered to watch the historic scene in silence, witnesses said.
"My father is happy to shed light on the Khmer Rouge regime for the world and people to understand," Nuon Say said afterward.
Nuon Say said his mother fainted after seeing her husband taken away by police. He said Nuon Chea rolled down the window of the car and took one last look at his son, and said nothing.
In Phnom Penh, a convoy transported Nuon Chea from a military airport in the capital to the offices of the tribunal, officially known as the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia.
"An initial appearance will be held today during which he will informed of the charges which have been brought against him," the tribunal said in a statement.
Nuon Chea helped Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot seize control of Cambodia's underground communist movement in the 1950s and '60s.
He later became the group's chief political ideologue during its murderous rule in the 1970s, when its radical policies caused the deaths of 1.7 million people through hunger, illnesses, overwork and execution.
Prosecutors for the U.N.-backed genocide tribunal have said there are five senior Khmer Rouge figures they have recommended for trial. Nuon Chea is the second, and highest-ranking, Khmer Rouge leader detained to appear before the panel.
Kaing Guek Eav, commonly known as Duch who headed the former Khmer Rouge S-21 prison, was the first suspect detained by the tribunal on charges of crimes against humanity. He was charged last month. The other suspects have not been publicly named.
Tribunal spokesman Reach Sambath said the co-investigating judges were expected to question Nuon Chea later Wednesday.