Arusha, December 7th, '99 (FH) - The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda has granted prosecutors leave to hold a joint trial of two genocide suspects linked to the media. The two suspects concerned are Ferdinand Nahimana, former director of the hate radio Radio Télévision Libre des Mille Collines (RTLM), and Hassan Ngeze, former editor of the extremist newspaper Kangura.

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In November, both men pleaded not guilty to amended indictments. In a decision rendered on November 30th, but only just made public, Trial Chamber One said it was "of the view that if the allegations in the amended indictments are proved at trial, they would show that the two accused were involved in events which form part of a common scheme, strategy or plan. Further,the Trial Chamber is of the view that, in accordance with established national jurisprudence, and in the interests of the good administration of justice, co-conspirators should generally be tried together". The court also took note of the Prosecutor's arguments that a joinder would reduce the number of witnesses that would have to be brought from Rwanda. "The Trial Chamber considers this also to be a relevant consideration for granting the motion for joinder," says the decision. Defence counsels for the two accused had argued that the joinder motion was premature, because of pending appeals against the indictment amendments and because they should be given time to bring preliminary motions, following disclosure of supporting materials on the amendments. On the first point, the court noted that the Appeals Court had not ordered any stay of proceedings in the cases of Nahimana or Ngeze and that if the appeals were granted, then the Trial Chamber would take appropriate action. "Accordingly, the Trial Chamber finds no reason to stay these proceedings ineither case, at this stage," it said. On the second point, the court said it was of the view that "the accused will not suffer prejudice if the motion for joinder is granted, as the Defence could still bring the preliminary motions. " It also refuted the argument that a joinder would cause undue delay. "The Trial Chamber is satisfied," says the decision,"that a joinder would not infringe the rights of the accused to be tried without undue delay. "Until recently, the "/media trial" was also expected to include Jean-Bosco Barayagwiza, a founder of RTLM and the extremist Hutu CDR party, and Italo-Belgian RTLM presenter Georges Ruggiu. However, Ruggiu has been confessing to prosecutors, and the ICTR Appeal Court on November 3rd ordered Barayagwiza's release on grounds that procedures had been repeatedly violated during his initial detention in Cameroon and after his transfer to the ICTR prison in Arusha. The Appeal Court decision provoked demonstrations in Rwanda and the announcement that Kigali was "suspending" cooperation with the Tribunal. Military joinder on the way?Last week, the Prosecutor requested leave to hold a joint genocide trial of four Rwandan ex-military officials. The four are Théoneste Bagosora, former advisor (chef de cabinet) at the Rwandan defence ministry, and three senior commanders in the former Rwandan army: Anatole Nsengiyumva, Aloys Ntabakuze and Gratien Kabiligi. Arguing for the prosecution, David Spencer of the United States argued that the joinder request was founded both in law and in fact. He said prosecution investigations showed that the accused "participated in the same criminal enterprise". Spencer also told the court that a joinder would remove undue delays, because witnesses testifying against the group as a whole would only have to come to Arusha once. The ICTR has already granted leave for the Prosecutor to join the trials of six people accused of planning and implementing attacks on ethnic Tutsis in the Butare region of southern Rwanda during the 1994 genocide (the "Butare group"). They include former Minister of Women's Development and Family Welfare Pauline Nyiramasuhuko and two former prefects of Butare, Sylvain Nsabimana and Alphonse Nteziryayo. It has also authorized a joint trial for three genocide suspects accused of crimes in the Cyangugu area ofsouthwestern Rwanda (the "Cyangugu group"). They are former Minister for Transport and Communications André Ntagerura, former prefect of Cyangugu Emmanuel Bagambiki and formermilitary commander Samuel Imanishimwe. JC/FH (ME§1207e)