Arusha, September 15th, '99 (FH) - The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) on Wednesday ordered a separate trial for former mayor of Mabanza (Kibuye prefecture, western Rwanda) Ignace Bagilishema. Up to now, Bagilishema has been jointly accused with seven other people on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity.

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The charges relate to massacres of ethnic Tutsis in Kibuye prefecture between April and July 1994. The seven other accused included Kibuye prefect Clément Kayishema and businessman Obed Ruzindana, who were sentenced for genocide on May 21st. The other co-accused are still on the run. Nigerian prosecutor Charles Adeogun-Philips told the court that a separate trial for Bagilishema was legally founded and necessary in the interests of justice. He said the accused had the right to be tried within a reasonable period of time, and that prosecution investigators did not yet know if his fugitive co-accused would be arrested. The fugitives in question are former mayor of Gishyita Charles Sikubwabo, former mayor of Gisovu Aloys Ndimbati, former municipal counsellors Vincent Rutaganira and Mika Muhimana, and restaurant manager Ryandikayo. Philips said that trying Bagilishema on his own would avoid the necessity for a trial "in absentia". He said the prosecution plans to modify the indictment against Bagilishema, so that massacre sites would be mentioned solely in relation to the charges against him. Bagilishema's French defence counsel, François Roux, backed the poition of the prosecution. "For once, the defence agrees with the prosecution," he told the court, "and is happy to hear the prosecutor's arguments concerning the right to a trial without excessive delay. " The trial of Ignace Bagilishema is due to open on October 27th. Initial appearance contestedThe ICTR also heard a defence motion contesting the validity of Bagilishema's initial appearance on April 1st. Bagilishema refused to plead guilty or not guilty because he was assisted only by a duty counsel. This led the court, presided by Tanzanian judge William Sekule, to enter a "not guilty" plea. Roux said there was "confusion" in the way the charges were read and that his client had not been adequately represented. Roux was appointed as Bagilishema's lawyer on March 31st. He said the ICTR Registry should have informed him of the April 1st initial appearance. Bagilishema, 44, was born in Rubengera in Mabanza commune. He was mayor of that commune from February 1980 to July 1994. Bagilishema was arrested in South Africa on February 20th this year and transferred to the ICTR prison in Arusha the same day. AT/JC/FH (BS§0915e)