Arusha, November 28th, 2000 (FH)- A former Rwandan millitary officer, Captain Innocent Sagahutu, on Tuesday pleaded not guilty to 12 counts of genocide and crimes against humanity before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), the independent news agency Hirondelle reports. Sagahutu was second-in-commmand of the reconnaissance battalion (RECCE) within the Rwandan army during the 1994 genocide that claimed the lives of some 800,000 Tustis and moderate Hutus.

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He was also commander of Company A in the same battalion“ Non coupable [not guilty], ” Sagahutu responded calmly in French to each of the 12 counts. He is charged with conspiracy to commit genocide, genocide, complicity in genocide, crimes against humanity, including rape, and serious violations of the Geneva Conventions on war crimes. Sagahutu is accused of responsibility in the death of former Rwandan Prime Minister Agathe Uwilingiyimana and ten Belgian soldiers of UNAMIR, the then UN peacekeeping force in Rwanda. The indictment further alleges that Sagahutu is responsible for the acts of all units of the battalion under his command, over whom he exercised authority. He is jointly accused with his ex-boss, Major François-Xavier Nzuwonemeye and three other former Rwandan army officers who are still on the run. Nzuwonemeye is also in the custody of the ICTR. Prior to the plea, Sagahutu’s Tanzanian duty counsel Bharat Chadha objected to the arrest of his client, saying the arrest warrant was meant for another person. Chadha said Sagahutu was born in 1962, and not 1943 as indicated on the arrest warrant. “If the arrest warrant was meant for a man born in 1943, then I think he’s not the man before you today,” Chadha told Judge Mehmet Güney of Turkey, who was sitting alone on the bench. However, Judge Güney accepted the prosecutor’s argument that the mistaken date of birth on the arrest warrant was a typing error and did not cast doubt on the identity of the accused. Sagahutu was arrested in the Danish town of Ringkjobing on February 15th this year, on an arrest warrant from the ICTR. He was transferred to the ICTR last Friday. GG/JC/FH(SA%1128e)