Arusha 13th April (FH) - Joseph Kanyabashi, former mayor of Ngoma in the Butare prefecture of Southern Rwanda, demanded his immediate release in Thursday's hearing before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. In an urgent appeal, Kanyabashi's Canadian defence lawyer, Michel Boyer, maintained that his client had been illegally detained and solicited an immediate halt to the proceedings.

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Joseph Kanyabashi was arrested in June 1995 in Belgium and has been detained under the jurisdiction of the ICTR since January 1996, but his trial has yet to start. Joseph Kanyabashi was placed under the jurisdiction of the ICTR, on the 11th January 1996 when the case was transferred from Belgium, but he was not made aware of the charges against him by the ITCR until 8th August 1996. He was not given the right to a court-appointed lawyer until 29th November 1996, the date of his first appearance before the court, and was not granted the right of immediate trial, pleaded M. Boyer. The Canadian lawyer denounced this violation of the right to trial without excessive delay, suggesting that the incompetence of the Prosecutor's office, from the moment of arrest until the present day, had meant that they could not even predict a starting date for the trial. The Chamber has no choice but to call a halt to proceedings and order the immediate release of Joseph Kanyabashi. The Prosecutor's office intends to organise a joint trial for the whole "Butare Group" which in addition to Kanyabashi includes Pauline Nyiramasuhuko, former Minister for Family and Female affairs and her son, Arsene Shalom Ntahobari. The remaining members are Sylvain Nsabimana and Alphonse Nteziryayo, the former prefects for Butare, and Elie Ndayambaje,former mayor of Muganza. "The joint trial will not speed up the legal process" asserted Michel Boyer, citing past UN experience. Kanyabashi's defence team has appealed against the decision for a joint trial. The Tanzanian deputy Prosecutor, Japhet Daniel Mono, replied that the "defendant seeks only to evade justice", adding that the claims of the Defence team lacked foundation and suggesting that the accused had effectively renounced his legal rights by having taken two years to assert them. The case was submitted for trial before the Second Chamber, presided over by the Senegalese judge Laity Kama. AT/TR/PHD/FH (KN%0413E)