Arusha, October 18th, '99 (FH) - Prosecutors at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) on Monday sought leave to amend the indictment against former Rwandan journalist Hassan Ngeze, adding four new charges. Speaking for the prosecutor's office, Alphonse Van (Côte d'Ivoire) said this was because of new evidence against Ngeze, and plans to join his trial with other genocide suspects associated with the media.

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Ngeze was editor of the extremist newspaper Kangura, accused of inciting Rwanda's Hutu population to kill Tutsis during the genocide of 1994. His current indictment dates from September 30, 1997, and contains three charges of direct and public incitement to genocide, crimes against humanity (persecution) and crimes against humanity (murder). A first count of genocide was not retained by the confirming judge, Lennart Aspegren of Sweden, on the grounds that it was not adequately substantiated at the time. Since then, Van told the court, prosecutors have conducted further investigations and now plan to reintroduce the genocide charge. He said Ngeze led and coordinated Interahamwe militia who carried out genocide in his home area of Gisenyi (northwest Rwanda). In addition, Van said the prosecution had evidence that the accused killed ethnic Tutsis with his own hands. The other new charges are: conspiracy to commit genocide, complicity in genocide and crimes against humanity (extermination). However, a rape charge included in a 1998 request (later withdrawn) to amend the 1997 indictment has not been included. Van said this was because the prosecution did not feel it had enough evidence. Speaking about the conspiracy charge, Van called this a "very serious crime, which is at the centre of the Prosecutor's strategy. What happened in Rwanda in 1994 could not have been the work of isolated individuals, or of the common man. There was certainly a conspiracy, a deliberate working together to commit crimes. "Hassan Ngeze," he continued, "was at the centre, or was at least part of this national conspiracy that led to the genocide. Our investigations have shown that Ngeze was close to former Rwandan president Juvénal Habyarimana, he was a leading member of the CDR party and before that the MRND. It was in those two parties that we find the main instigators and planners of the genocide. "Van told the court that, as a journalist, Ngeze was also close to fellow ICTR detainees Jean-Bosco Barayagwiza, former advisor to the Rwandan foreign ministry and a founder of the hate radio Radio Télévision Libre des Mille Collines (RTLM); and to Ferdinand Nahimana, the former director of RTLM. He said that the prosecution was working "in view of a possible joinder" of these cases. "Hassan Ngeze is not just an ordinary citizen," Van told the court. "He helped put in place a policy of genocide. We will present material proof to show this. "Prosecution motions to amend the indictments of Barayagwiza and Nahimana are scheduled for Tuesday, and a joinder motion is planned later this week. Former RTLM presenter Georges Ruggiu was also expected to be part of a media "mega-trial" but is reportedly in the throes of confessing to prosecutors. "We know that in Rwanda in 1994 and even before, the press played a decisive rôle in the genocide, by indoctrinating the people, cultivating hatred, setting Hutus and Tutsis against each other," Van told the court. "Hassan Ngeze wrote inflammatory articles. He also spoke on RTLM radio. We have proof. "Ngeze was arrested in July 1997 in Kenya and pleaded not guilty to the original three charges against him at an initial appearance on October 27, 1997. Van said the prosecution was concerned for the rights of the accused. But he said the prosecution request for amendment would not lead to "excessive" delays in the trial, and would even speed it up. Also on Monday, the prosecution requested that Trial Chamber One, presided by Judge Nevanethem Pillay of South Africa, authorize measures for the protection of witness identities in the Ngeze case. Speaking for the prosecution, William Egbe of Ghana said this was necessary because of the security situation in the northwest Rwandan districts of Gisenyi and Ruhengeri, near the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo. He said the prosecution planned to bring most of its witnesses from there. Defence to respond TuesdayAt the start of Monday's hearing, Ngeze's new defence counsel, Patricia Mongo (Republic of Congo) had requested more time to prepare her responses, saying that she had not received all the necessary documents in her working language of French. Ms Mongo was assigned to Ngeze on September 28th this year, after Canadian lawyer André Gagnier was removed from the case. "It has been the judges' experience over the past four years that this level of incompetence on the part of the Registry holds up the work of the Chamber," Judge Pillay remarked, although a representative of the Registry told the court the documents had been sent. Pillay said that under normal circumstances, the court would wish to accommodate Ms Mongo's request. But she explained that the motions must be dealt with this week for two reasons. First, the other two judges (Eric Mose of Norway and Asoka de Zoysa Gunawardena of Sri Lanka) would be hearing another case next week. And second, the ICTR has been obliged to suspend hearings planned for Thursday because of a Tanzanian public holiday marking the death of former president Julius Nyerere. The court therefore ruled that Monday morning's hearings would go ahead, but requested the prosecution to provide as much detail as possible for the defence. Pillay said Mongo would have until Tuesday afternoon to prepare her responses. At the request of the accused, the court also granted permission for Ms Mongo to work with Ngeze to this end "until whatever time she deems necessary" on Monday night. JC/FH (NG§1018e)