Arusha, May 15th, 2000 (FH) - Lawyers for former hate-radio journalist Georges Ruggiu, who pleaded guilty on Monday before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), say their client was "manipulated" and was the victim of circumstances. The defence urged the court to make its sentence "proportionate and individualized".

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"Ruggiu was a small-scale collaborator who did not understand the sordid complexity of Rwandan politics," Ruggiu's Tunisian defence counsel told the court. Aouini also stressed that Ruggiu did not hold any position of authority during the 1994 genocide. Ruggiu, who has Italian and Belgian nationality, was a journalist and presenter with Radio-Télévision Libre des Mille Collines (RTLM), the radio station used to incite Hutu to kill Tutsi during the 1994 genocide. He has pleaded guilty to direct and public incitement to genocide and to crimes against humanity (persecution). "He was a victim of the ideological indoctrination he was given before going to Rwanda [. . . ], Aouini continued. "They [the Hutu extremists] manipulated him and pulled him into a criminal plot without him realizing it. " The Tunisian lawyer said Ruggiu now admitted the mistakes and misdeeds of his past. Ruggiu's Belgian co-counsel Jean-Louis Gilissen suggested that the court should punish his client but should "differentiate" the sentence. He spoke, for example, of the case of former Rwandan militia leader Omar Serushago, who was sentenced to 15 years' imprisonment after pleading guilty to genocide. "Serushago killed," Gilissen told the court. "Ruggiu only lent moral support, he never gave orders, and he never knew that there was going to be a genocide in Rwanda. I hope you will decide on a sentence that is both proportionate and takes into account his personal story. "Character witnessRuggiu's defence team also brought a character-witness, named AB to protect her identity. The witness was a Belgian woman who worked with Ruggiu in Belgium between 1992 and 1993 and knew him socially. "Ruggiu was a direct colleague," she told the court,"and he had a strong personality. He was respectful of the rules, sometimes too much so. ""Ruggiu was in love with Africa," AB also told the court, "and he often talked about Rwanda, where he said he had found an adoptive family. His Rwandan friends were very important to him. [. . . ] One day he showed me a photo of his Rwandan girlfriend and told me he wanted to start a family there. "AB said she had often talked politics with Ruggiu, especially about the relations between the Rwandan government and the Rwandan Patriotic Front (Tutsi guerilla army). "Ruggiu was always talking about political problems," she said, "but never about ethnic problems. [. . . ] The feeling I had was that he was manipulated and that people used his love of Africa for purposes of which he was unaware. "The prosecution has recommended a 20-year prison sentence for Ruggiu. Trial Chamber One of the ICTR is due to deliver its verdict on June 1st. CR/JC/FH (RG%0515i)