Arusha, January 6, 2000(FH) - The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) is due to hand down its verdict on former Rwandan tea factory director Alfred Musema on January 27th, according to a draft judicial calendar. On February 15th, the ICTR Appeals Court is due to sit in Arusha, to hear the Prosecutor's request for a review of its controversial decision to release top genocide suspect Jean-Bosco Barayagwiza.

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The judgement on Musema will be the ICTR's seventh since its creation in 1994, after the genocide in Rwanda. His trial, which started in January and ended in July 1999, will be the Tribunal's fastest so far. Musema was director of the state-owned tea factory in Gisovu (Kibuye prefecture, western Rwanda). He is accused of genocide and crimes against humanity, including rape. The charges relate to massacres of ethnic Tutsis in the Bisesero region of Kibuye, where thousands fled between April and July 1994 to escape persecution. The former tea factory director has pleaded not guilty to all charges, with his defence resting on alibi. In his closing arguments, Musema's British defence lawyer Steven Kay said the alibi arguments presented during the trial proved beyond reasonable doubt that Musema had not committed the crimes of which he is accused. "After so many years, it would only be just to release him," Kay told the court. In the course of the trial, Musema's defence team has shown the court various documents including letters, bills and orders to travel, as proof that their client was not in Kibuye prefecture at the time he is accused of committing the crimes. However, the prosecution contests these alibi arguments, saying that the accused "covered his tracks". It has called for the court to find him guilty and commit him to prison for life. Musema was arrested in Switzerland on February 11th, 1995. His case was first handled by the judicial authorities of the Swiss military, until the ICTR requested his transfer to Arusha. Appeals Court to sit in ArushaThe ICTR Appeals Court, normally based in The Hague (Netherlands), is scheduled to sit in Arusha for three days in February. It will notably hear the Prosecutor's request for a review of its decision ordering the release of top genocide suspect Jean-Bosco Barayagwiza. On November 3rd, the Appeal Court ordered Barayagwiza's release, on the grounds that procedures had been repeatedly violated during his initial detention in Cameroon, and after his transfer to the ICTR prison in Arusha, Tanzania. The release order on Barayagwiza caused the Rwandan government to suspend cooperation with the ICTR. New UN Chief Prosecutor Carla Del Ponte subsequently filed for a review of the decision, on the basis of "new facts". Rwanda also asked to present its arguments to the Appeal Court, so that the judges review their decision to have Barayagwiza returned to Cameroon, where he was originally arrested. Kigali also said that if Barayagwiza were sent to Rwanda, it would guarantee he would not be sentenced to death, even if found guilty. The ICTR's draft calendar says the February 15th hearing will include an amicus curiae (friend of the court) statement by the Rwandan government "if feasible". Relations between the ICTR and Kigali remain strained following the November 3rd decision. Barayagwiza was a founder of the extremist radio station Radio Télévision des Mille Collines, which incited Hutus to kill Tutsis, and of the hardline Hutu political party CDR. He was policy advisor to the foreign ministry of the interim government that presided over the genocide. His release order has been stayed, pending the outcome of the latest requests. Barayagwiza remains in the UN detention facility in Arusha for the time being. Judges of the ICTR and of the Appeal Court are to hold an extraordinary plenary session in Arusha from February 18th to 22nd. JC/FH (CL%0106e)