Arusha, June 5th, 2000 (FH) - Prosecutors on Monday asked the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) to authorize a joint trial for three former Rwandan politicians charged with genocide. The three accused are Mathieu Ngirumpatse, ex-president of the former single party MRND, his secretary-general Joseph Nzirorera, and the former mayor of Mukingo (Ruhengeri prefecture, northern Rwanda) Juvénal Kajelijeli.

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Prosecutors said the three were linked through their activities within the MRND and its youth movement the Interahmawe militia, considered to have spearheaded the 1994 genocide. These three accused currently figure on an indictment with five other people, of whom three are still on the run. Prosecutors are now asking that they be separated, so that they be tried on their own. The prosecution wants to sever them from former Interior Minister Edouard Karemera and former Education Minister André Rwamakuba, who are being held by the ICTR in Arusha. Also on the current indictment are former Defence Minister Augustin Bizimana, former Minister for Youth Callixte Nzabonimana and businessman Félicien Kabuga, who are still on the run. . Prosecutors Ken Fleming of Australia and Don Webster of Jamaica indicated that Karemera and Rwamakuba could be tried with other members of the former interim government, while for those indictees still on the run, "we could ask for their joinder once they have been arrested". Defence lawyers for the accused opposed the prosecutor's request, on the grounds that it could prejudice their clients' trials. Ngirumpatse's counsel, Charles Roach of Trinidad and Tobago, said there were very few allegations against his client and that the prosecution was trying to "lump evreyone together, anyone who had any kind of post in the former regime and who is of Hutu origin". Nzirorera's Scottish lawyer Andrew McCartan said his client should be tried on the basis of his alleged individual responsibility, not that of the political parties or government, which he said was not within the competence of the Tribunal. Richard Harvey, American co-counsel for Kajelijeli, also asked that his client be given an individual trial, saying that Kajelijeli had been accused "by accident". He said the Tribunal had not even been looking for Kajelijeli. "The only link was that he lived at Mr. Nzirorera's house when they were both in exile," said Harvey. "If it hadn't been for that, we would never have heard of Mr Kajelijeli. "The American lawyer said his client had met Ngirumpatse for the first time in the UN prison in Arusha. He also said that Nzirorera and Ngirumpatse had agreed to testify that Kajelijeli had never been a member of the MRND. Prosecutors said, however, that they had many witness testimonies to the effect that there was conspiracy between Kajelijeli and Nzirorera. "Not only were they together in Benin, but they were also together when they organized MRND meetings and distributed arms to the Interahamwe," prosecutors said. They said Kajelijeli was nothing less than the "worst butcher in Mukingo". Rwamakuba's British lawyer David Hooper said the prosecution argument was "vague and very imprecise" and that there was "some confusion". The French counsel for Karemera, Didier Skornicki, urged judges not to be swayed by what he called "the political approach of the prosecution". Lawyers had at first tried to get the hearing adjourned, because of a number of motions still awaiting decision at Trial Chamber or Appeals Court level. However, judges ruled that interlocutory motions "need not necessarily mean the suspension of proceedings", unless this could cause serious prejudice to the accused, "which is not the case here", they said. Trial Chamber Two is deliberating on the matter. The Chamber is composed of Judge Laity Kama of Senegal presiding, Judge William Hussein Sekule of Tanzania and Judge Mehmet Güney of Turkey. AT/JC/FH (PL%0605E)