Arusha, June 27th, 2000 (FH) - Former Rwandan Prime Minister Jean Kambanda told the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) on Tuesday that he felt forced to sign his guilty plea agreement with the prosecution. He said he did not reject the statements he had made, but that he completely rejected the "context" in which the plea agreement was signed.

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"I never felt bound by these documents," Kambanda said, in response to cross-questioning by the prosecution. "They were documents made by the prosecution for the prosecution. ""I felt that I was all alone, with no recourse," Kambanda said. "I was forced to sign. " Asked what had forced him, Kambanda repeated his earlier complaints that he had been denied the lawyer of his choice, that his lawyer was "not a real lawyer" but a friend of the deputy prosecutor, and that all his avenues of recourse (the Trial Chamber, the Registry and the prosecution) had been exhausted. "You could have said 'I don't want to sign'," prosecutor Norman Farwell pointed out. Kambanda responded that "perhaps if I had had a good lawyer, he would have advised that. "Kambanda agreed that he had been prime minister of his country, director of a prominent bank network in Rwanda and had had numerous dealings with the international community. "Do you mean to say," Farwell continued, "that despite all that experience, you felt forced to sign the agreement [. . . ], just because a letter [from the lawyer of Kambanda's choice to the ICTR] had received no reply?"Kambanda, sounding increasingly emotional, said that this was only one of the reasons, and that he rejected the whole context in which he had signed. In response to further questioning, he did not deny that he had been involved in changing certain paragraphs of the plea agreement, but said he did not feel bound by it. Kambanda was prime minister of the interim government which presided over the 1994 genocide. He pleaded guilty to genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide, direct and public incitement to genocide, complicity in genocide and crimes against humanity. Despite his cooperation with the prosecution, the ICTR sentenced him to life imprisonment on September 4th, 1998. He is now asking the Appeals Court to revoke his guilty plea and order a full trial. However, he told the court on Tuesday that he did not reject his statements to the prosecution. "Yes, they are true and I am prepared to stand by them," he said. "But I am not prepared to stand by that act [of signing the April 1998 plea agreement]. I am still prepared to cooperate because I would like the truth to be known about the tragic events that happened in Rwanda. "Kambanda also said that "my objective was not to plead guilty but to tell the truth". He claims that the plea agreement was full of inaccuracies. At several points, Kambanda tried to tell the court about how he became interim prime minister and what happened after president Habyarimana's plane was shot down on April 6th, 1994, and the massacres started. However, the court cut him short, saying that he had already had his opportunity to speak before the Trial Chamber and that the Appeal was limited to determining whether his guilty plea had been voluntary, informed and unequivocal. JC/FH (KM%0627f)