Arusha, November 8th, '99 (FH) - The trial of the former mayor of Bicumbi (Kigali prefecture, central-eastern Rwanda) Laurent Semanza, due to start next Wednesday before the International Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) has been postponed indefinitely. The judges took the decision during Monday's pre-trial conference, after a last minute motion "of extreme urgency" was filed by the prosecution.

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The motion was aimed at avoiding the communication of certain witnesses' names to the defence, out of a concern for their security. Both parties agreed to reconvene on November 17th to continue talks on an informal basis, according to one of the participants. As he left the meeting, Laurent Semanza's Belgian lawyer André Dumont told the news agency Hirondelle that the prosecution refused to give him all the supporting evidence on which the trial will be based. Mr Dumont also said that a motion filed by the defence relating to the "illegal" arrest and detention of the accused, currently being considered by the appeals court, would probably result in further suspensions. "As soon as a motion goes to appeal, the Tribunal is removed from the case" he explained. Dumont is arguing that Laurent Semanza was arrested and detained under the same conditions as the former director of political affairs at the Rwandan foreign office, Jean-Bosco Barayagwisa. Following a decision by the appeals court handed down on November 3rd, the judges granted Barayagwisa an unconditional release. The court based its decision on irregularities observed in trial proceedings during his detention in Cameroon and following his transfer to the Arusha Tribunal. "We are talking about the same places and the same dates" as Laurent Semanza, argued André Dumont. Commenting on Saturday's decision by the Rwandan Government to suspend cooperation with the ICTR as a reaction to the release of Jean-Bosco Barayagwiza, Semanza's lawyer asked "can we really talk of a smooth trial right now?". In his view, the best strategy from now on is to await the public's reaction to recent events. Dumont also criticised the fact that the office of the prosecutor is situated in Rwanda, arguing that this puts the prosecution at a definite advantage. Next Friday, three other accused will be testing the court's reaction to similar motions on arbitrary arrest and detention. These include the former president of the ex-presidential party Matthieu Ngirumpatse, the former minister of the interior under the interim government and vice-president of the ex-presidential party, Edouard Karemera and the former mayor of Mukingo (Ruhengeri prefecture, north-eastern Rwanda), Juvénal Kajelijeli. AT/PHD/FH (SE§1108A )