Arusha, June 24th, '99 (FH) - Former Rwandan mayor Laurent Semanza on Thursday pleaded not guilty to charges of rape and genocide before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR). Semanza was mayor of Bicumbi (greater Kigali prefecture, central Rwanda).

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He was pleading on the basis of a newly amended indictment. On June 18th, the court granted the prosecution leave to add seven new charges to the original indictment, including rape. The original indictment dates from October 1997. The defendant is now charged with fourteen counts of genocide, incitement to commit genocide, complicity in genocide, crimes against humanity and violations of the Geneva Conventions on war crimes. The crimes against humanity charges include rape and torture. Semanza is accused of ordering massacres of ethnic Tutsis in Gikoro and Bicumbi communes during the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. He is also accused of ordering and inciting Interahmwe militia and other groups to rape or otherwise violate the dignity of Tutsi women. The former mayor is accused, for example, of discussing with a group of people and ordering them to rape Tutsi women before killing them. The prosecution says two women were subsequently raped and one was killed. Semanza appeared before Trial Chamber Three of the ICTR, presided by Jamaican judge Lloyd George Williams. The other two judges in the chamber are Yakov Ostrovsky of Russia and Pavel Dolenc of Slovenia. The defendant refused the assistance of Indian duty counsel Bharat Chada, who had been designated by the registry to replace his assigned lawyer André Dumont of Belgium. "The duty counsel came to see me yesterday," Semanza told the court. "I asked him to show me documents from my lawyer confirming his power of attorney. Up to now, he has not produced them. " He told the court that assistance from Chada could be prejudicial to his case. "I intend to plead, but you should note that it is without the help of a lawyer," he said. André Dumont was appointed to replace Canadian defence counsel Gaétan Bourassa, sacked by the ICTR last February. AT/JC/FH (SE'a70624e)