Arusha, February 28, 2001(FH) - The lawyer for genocide suspect Hassan Ngeze denounced Rwanda on Monday, saying it was trying to obstruct justice by interfering in International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) trials, reports the independent news agency Hirondelle. Attorney John Floyd of the US was referring to a Hirondelle news report entitled "Kigali Unhappy with Cross-Questioning of Prosecution Witnesses" (report of February 27, 2001).

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The report is based on an interview by Rwanda’s Justice Minister Jean de Dieu Mucyo during a visit to Kigali by outgoing ICTR Registrar Dr. Agwu Okali of Nigeria and his successor Adama Dieng of Senegal. "I’m extraordinarily outraged that the Justice Minister of Rwanda first meets the Registrar of this Tribunal [à] and talks about particular issues involved in this Tribunal," an angry Floyd told the court. Floyd particularly attacked the Justice Minister’statement that there had been "harassment of witnesses by defence lawyers" during cross-examination. He objected to Mucyo’s comments on Radio Rwanda (as reported and translated by Hirondelle) in which he (the minister) said: "If they treat people like that, we would like to know how we, for our part, are supposed to treat them. ""It is a total and absolute outrage that they try to interject themselves into this trial," said Ngeze’s lawyer. "I don’t care about the Justice Minister of Rwanda -- he can go to hell -- but I respect this court. I will not be intimidated by the government of Rwanda. "Floyd said he was "begging this court to talk to the new Registrar. He shouldn’t be talking to them about a particular trial". The defence counsel then insisted: "I want this court to go on record saying the Kigali government has no say in how I or any other lawyer cross-questions a witness. "Prosecutor William Egbe of Cameroon suggested that Floyd should have waited to talk to the new Registrar, rather than relying on reports by third parties. He also said that if counsel felt threatened by events outside the courtroom, there might be better ways to deal with them, outside the courtroom. "The Chamber takes note of this," said presiding judge Navanethem Pillay of South Africa, "and will see how it can best be handled by the Tribunal. "Ngeze is the former editor of Kangura newspaper. He is jointly charged with two other suspects linked to "hate media" in Rwanda. The other two are Ferdinand Nahimana, former director of Radio-Télévision Libre des Mille Collines (RTLM) and Jean-Bosco Barayagwiza, who is a former politician and board member of RTLM. The three are charged with several counts of genocide, public incitement to commit genocide, complicity in genocide and crimes against humanity. The so-called Media Trial is before Trial Chamber One of the ICTR, composed of Judges Navanethem Pillay of South Africa (presiding), Erik Mose of Norway and Asoka de Zoysa Gunawardana of Sri Lanka. GG/JC/FH (ME_0228e)