Arusha, October 26th, 2000 (FH) - The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) said on Thursday it needed time to deliberate on a request from lawyers of genocide suspect Jean-Bosco Barayagwiza to withdraw from his trial, after they were earlier refused permission to leave the courtroom. But a prisoner solidarity strike to support his trial boycott appeared to have crumbled.

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Barayagwiza's Canadian defence lawyer Carmelle Marchessault submitted a written request that she and her co-counsel be allowed to withdraw from the case, on the grounds that they had been forced to do so. Attached to the motion are documents from Barayagwiza who says that he has not lost confidence in his lawyers but that the court has forced him to ask for their release because they cannot carry out his instructions. On the first day of the trial, Barayagwiza said he was boycotting the court and asking his defence to do the same, because he had lost confidence in its ability to deliver impartial justice. He claims that the ICTR is being manipulated by the "dictatorial anti-Hutu regime in Kigali". Barayagwiza was a policy advisor to the former Rwandan government that presided over the 1994 genocide, and a founder of both the hardline Hutu CDR party and hate-radio station RTLM. He is co-accused with Ferdinand Nahimana, who was director of RTLM, and Hassan Ngeze, who was editor of the Kangura newspaper. In a letter dated October 24th, 22 of the 44 ICTR detainees in Arusha had said they were launching a two-day "strike" in solidarity with Barayagwiza, including a court boycott. But in fact, Barayagwiza was the only absentee from the two trials in progress on Thursday. Hassan Ngeze, the first signatory to the letter who had been boycotting the trial, actually came to court today. Some defence investigators told Hirondelle that detainees were refusing to eat and had refused to receive them. However, lawyers were reported to have been consulting with their clients at the UN prison as normal. What to do with Barayagwiza?While Barayagwiza's lawyers argued that they had been put in an "untenable and impossible situation", forcing them to withdraw from the case, the prosecution argued that they should be forced to stay. "We stick to our position that the action of non-participation the accused has embarked on is not in his best interests and that by singly cooperating with the accused in this regard, counsel is not being faithful to its obligation to represent him," argued prosecutor William Egbe of Cameroon. "This is an adversarial trial and the accused has pleaded not-guilty. Hypothetically, should we assume that by withdrawing, he is pleading not-guilty? It is clearly not in his best interests. "Egbe argued that the first duty of counsel was to the ICTR and not to their client. "The accused has the right not to appear in court. But his not-guilty plea is overriding and there is an obligation on counsel," Egbe continued. "All the more so because it is a joint trial. We hold that counsel must remain in this case and defend the interests of the accused person. "But lead counsel Marchessault said the prosecution was in no position to decide what were the best interests of her client. Co-counsel David Danielson of the US said he objected strongly to the claim that he was not fulfilling his professional obligations. "Mr Egbe indicated that I had a duty to act for the defence in this case. But the ethical rules which I am obliged to follow say it is my duty NOT to defend Barayagwiza if he gives instructions to that effect and is aware of the consequences," Danielson told the court. "There is no way I could havehonoured that court order [to stay in court], I have checked it out with the Bar Association of Washington of which I am a member. "Danielson said the prosecution also suggested he had failed in his duty to the ICTR, but that "I have done exactly the opposite". Danielson said that he and his client had spent "much time together". While he could not reveal the content of their conversations, Danielson said that "my comments were forceful, creative and repetitive". He described Barayagwiza as an "extremely intelligent person who is without doubt in control of his faculties" and was not about to change his mind. Presiding judge Navanethem Pillay of South Africa said the three judges of Trial Chamber One would "like to deliberate", but that "we'll try to do so without delay" and that "we will inform you by Monday". She said that there would be no court hearings Friday, because of a judges' meeting. JC/FH (ME10%26f)