Arusha, June 7, 2001 (FH) The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) on Thursday ordered that the release of acquitted genocide suspect Ignace Bagilishema be suspended, pending a decision on a Prosecutor's appeal. Following the court's majority decision to acquit Bagilishema on all charges, the prosecution announced that it was appealing, and argued that the court should order a new arrest warrant.

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The defence argued strongly that an acquittal should mean immediate release, but the court said it would not decide immediately. Presiding judge Erik Mose of Norway said the Chamber would render its decision "as soon as possible". "I am arguing on behalf of a free man," Bagilishema's French defence counsel François Roux told the court. "This man has been declared not-guilty and he should be freed. " Roux argued that keeping Bagilishema in further detention violated international human rights conventions and even the Tribunal's own statute. He pointed out that his client had already spent two years and five months in custody. "Don't you think that is already more than enough?" he asked the judges. Roux also cited two cases of genocide acquittals before Rwandan courts, where the suspect had been immediately released. One example he gave was Bishop Augustin Misago, acquitted of genocide after a year-long trial and released despite a prosecutor's appeal. Roux stressed that Misago had been allowed to travel abroad and had returned to Rwanda. The second example he gave was of Ignace Banyaga, former deputy prefect of Kibuye in western Rwanda. Roux said Banyaga had been acquitted by a Kibuye court, and also been immediately freed, despite a prosecution appeal. He was only re-arrested under a subsequent indictment on new charges. Arguing his case for continued detention, prosecutor Charles Phillips said that Bagilishema was likely to escape, and that he could put pressure on witnesses. However, Roux said Bagilishema had never tried to escape justice, as demonstrated by his willingness for trial proceedings to start quickly. As for the charge that he had been caught with a false passport in South Africa, Roux asked the judges: "are you going to hold that against him?"Roux also contested the prosecution argument that Bagilishema could put pressure on witnesses. "Since July 1999, Mr Bagilishema has at his disposal the declarations of a certain number of prosecution witnesses, their names, their identity, their addresses," Roux pointed out. "Has the prosecutor, in the course of these hearings, ever proved to you, or have the witnesses ever told you that they being pressurized? Has that been proved? Has the issue even been raised? I have never heard a prosecution witness come and tell the court that they had been victim of direct or indirect pressure from Mr. Bagilishema?"Roux also pointed out that the ICTR Appeals Court does not normally call witnesses, but rather decides on the legal aspects of the appeal. "What I understand," Roux continued, "is that the Appeals Court does not hear witnesses, or very rarely (…) which reduces to nothing the prosecutor's argument that there is a risk of pressure on witnesses. "Tribunal spokesman Kingsley Moghalu told journalists that Bagilishema would be kept in a UN detention facility pending the court's decision. Asked if he would be kept separately from other detainees, Moghalu replied "I would presume so". JC/AT/MBR/FH (BS0607i)