Arusha, October 23rd, 2000 (FH) - Two genocide suspects linked to hate-media in Rwanda boycotted the start of their trial Monday before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR). Jean-Bosco Barayagwiza, a former politician and founder member of the notorious radio station Radio Télévision Libre des Mille Collines (RTLM), said he was "unwilling to participate in any way in the trial" because he was convinced he would not get a fair trial.

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Hassan Ngeze, former editor of extremist newspaper Kangura, also refused to enter the court, although he was nearby in a waiting room. His lawyer, John C. Floyd of the US, explained this was because issues of Kangura being cited as evidence had not yet been translated into the working languages of the ICTR (English and French). Only Ferdinand Nahimana, former director of RTLM, was present in court. Presiding judge Navanethem Pillay of South Africa said that the court "could compel both accused to be present in the courtroom" as they were in ICTR custody. However, Judge Pillay asked both Barayagwiza's and Ngeze's counsels to assure their clients that their innocence was "accepted by this Chamber and that every allegation against them will require proof beyond reasonable doubt". "We would go a long way," Judge Pillay continued, "to guarantee their right to a fair trial. "In a statement Monday, however, Barayagwiza claimed that the ICTR was manipulated by the current Rwandan government and that the judges and prosecutors were the hostage of Kigali. "I refuse to associate myself with a show trial," he said, "the outcome of which is dictated by the government of Rwanda. Allowing the current leadership of Rwanda to be this Tribunal's puppeteer is even more outrageous in the face of the undisputed facts that they are responsible for killing thousands of Rwandans who opposed their takeover of the country in 1994. "Cameroonian Deputy Prosecutor Bernard Muna described Barayagwiza as a "master manipulator of the truth". He described all three accused as "men of little shame" who had misused the media to manipulate and terrorize their own people. "These were men of responsibility in society," Muna told the court, "men who were not used to getting blood on their own hands. But they knew how to use ordinary people in Rwanda. " Muna said that without these three media personalities the genocide would not have succeeded, that they robbed ordinary people of their "humanity, dignity, sense of communality and national unity". The Deputy Prosecutor spoke also of the "rabid zealotry" with which these people carried out their evil objectives". Nahimana, Barayagwiza and Ngeze are charged with conpsiracy to commit genocide, direct and public incitement to commit genocide, complicity in genocide and crimes against humanity. Their trial had been due to start on September 18th, but was adjourned so that the court could first hear a number of defence motions. The prosecution believes the accused were responsible for inciting the genocide that followed the downing of the late Rwandan president Juvénal Habyarimana's 'plane on April 6th, 1994. Some 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed in less than three months. "Certain members of President Habyarimana's entourage created hate media with the express intention of ensuring a broad diffusion of calls to ethnic violence and exerting a profound influence over the Rwandan population," according to the prosecution. The creation of the newspaper Kangura and RTLM radio are believed to have been an important part of this strategy. "Starting in 1993, Tutsis and political opponents were targeted, clearly identified and then terrorised by the media," prosecutors allege. "Some of the targets were later to become the first victims of the April 1994 massacre. "Italo-Belgian former RTLM presenter Georges Ruggiu was originally expected to be part of this trial. However, he was sentenced to 12 years' imprisonment in June, after pleading guilty to charges of inciting genocide and of crimes against humanity. He is expected to testify against the other suspects. Barayagwiza and Nahimana were both arrested in Cameroon in March 1996 while Ngeze was arrested in Kenya in July 1997. Their case is being heard by Trial Chamber One of the ICTR, composed of Judges Pillay (presiding), Eric Mose of Norway and Asoka de Zoysa Gunawardena of Sri Lanka. JC/FH (ME%1023e)