Arusha, November 25th, '99 (FH) - The former head of the extremist radio RTLM on Thursday pleaded not guilty to three new charges before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR). Ferdinand Nahimana pleaded in the presence of the ICTR's new Chief Prosecutor Carla Del Ponte, sitting in the court for the first time, and Deputy Prosecutor Bernard Muna.

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Nahimana was called to plead following the amendment of his indictment on November 5th. Later on Thursday, the Prosecutor is expected to present a motion to join his case to that of another genocide suspect from the media, Hassan Ngeze. Ngeze was editor of the extremist newspaper Kangura which, like Nahimana's Radio Télévision Libre des Mille Collines, incited Hutus to kill the Tutsi population. In its November 5th decision, Trial Chamber One authorized the prosecution's request to increase the number of charges against Nahimana from four to seven. The new charges are genocide, crimes against humanity (extermination) and crimes against humanity (murder). Presiding judge Nevanathem Pillay of South Africa called on the defendant to plead to all seven counts against him "for the sake of clarity". However, he objected that Tribunal Rules required him to plead only to the new ones. He was given leave to do so. Nahimana, well turned-out in a light grey suit and tie, continued to cite Tribunal Rules, claiming that he could not plead because the amended indictment had not been confirmed and that in any case he had appealed the amendment. Pillay replied that another confirmation was not necessary following a court order, and that the judges would review the matter when the Appeal Court made its decision. Asked to proceed, the accused finally did so, answering the three new charges with a calm "Not guilty, Madam President". Nahimana had already pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiracy to commit genocide, complicity in genocide, direct and public incitement to commit genocide and crimes against humanity (persecution). The court reconfirmed his not guilty plea to these charges. Nahimana was originally expected to be tried not only with Negeze but also with 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 laid blame squarely on the Office of the Prosecutor, saying "it appears that the Prosecutor's failure to prosecute this case was tantamount to negligence". The Appeal Court decision provoked demonstrations in Rwanda and the announcement that Kigali was "suspending" cooperation with the Tribunal. Swiss Chief Prosecutor Del Ponte, who only took up her post on September 15th, had planned a first visit to her office in Kigali this week to try to help defuse the crisis. However, Rwanda has so far denied her a visa. Del Ponte arrived in Arusha on Tuesday. On Wednesday, Deputy Prosecutor Bernard Muna (Cameroon) and Chief of Prosecutions Mohamed Othman flew to Arusha from Kigali. Del Ponte has said that "Where lessons are to be learned, I will take appropriate measures, and will do all I can to ensure that the Prosecutions of other cases are conducted with proper dispatch in future. "Her spokesman in The Hague said on Wednesday that she was still hoping to go to Kigali and that she would probably decide by the end of the week. JC/FH