Arusha, October 27th, '99 (FH) - The genocide trial of former Rwandan mayor Ignace Bagilishema began on Wednesday at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), with an outline of the prosecutor's case, the independant news agency Hirondelle reports. Bagilishema was mayor of Mabanza, in the Kibuye prefecture of western Rwanda, from February 1980 to July 1994.

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He is accused of playing a leading role in the massacre of Tutsis who fled to the region during the genocide that took place from April to July 1994. Ugandan prosecutor Jane Anywar Adong told the court that Bagilishema was a "longstanding mayor, a longstanding member of the MRND party [of former president Juvénal Habyarimana] and participated in the creation of its youth wing, the Interahamwe". Interahamwe militias were used to carry out the mass killings of Tutsis and opposition Hutus. Although he was charged with ensuring public security, Adong said Bagilishema took no steps to prevent the massacres in and around Mabanza. "Instead," she told the court, "he used his influence to orchestrate and lead them". She said that the massacres in Mabanza started after a visit by Kibuye prefect Clément Kayishema, who told the accused that Mabanza was the only commune left with "scum and filth" that must be cleaned up. After that, she said, Bagilishema moved "with lightning speed to implement a pre-conceived plan". Adong said the prosecution intended to prove that even prior to Habyarimana's death on April 6, 1994, Bagilishema "had already prepared" to carry out a national plan to exterminate Tutsis. According to Adong, Bagilishema was behind one of "the most bizarre and ruthless massacres" of the genocide. From April 9th, she told the court, he "used his position of authority, influence and trust in Mabanza to lure Tutsis from their hiding places". He encouraged thousands to seek refuge at Mabanza communal office. However, following Kayishema's visit, the refugees were taken "like sheep to the slaughter" to strategic sites where they were first deprived of food and water, then systematically massacred by soldiers and militia. The attack on Gitwaro Stadium on April 17th a, 18th was "directed by Kayishema and Bagilishema", Adong said. Some 10,000 people died in that attack, according to the prosecution. Adong said that an estimated 20,000 died in and around Mabanza communal office between April and July 1994. Bagilishema is charged with seven counts of genocide, complicity in genocide, crimes against humanity (murder, extermination and other inhumane acts) and seriousviolations of the Geneva Conventions on war crimes. Charges contained in an amended indictment include "causing outrages upon the personal dignity of [Tutsi] women, including humiliating and degrading treatment". Adong said the prosecution intends to bring "a total of about 29" witnesses to prove its case, including an investigator and an expert. She told the court that the other witnesses were mostly survivors who would recount the circumstances of the massacres site by site. The defence has signalled that it intends to plead an alibi. Bagilishema is defended by French lawyer François Roux and his co-counsel Maroufa Diabira of Mauritania. "The fact that there was a genocide and other serious violations of humanitarian law in Rwanda in 1994, " Roux told the court, "does not mean that the accused took part just because he was a mayor, a Hutu and appointed by the President of the Republic. "JC/FH (§1027e)