Arusha, May 25, 2001 (FH) The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) has discharged Cameroonian lawyer George So'o from his duties on medical grounds. So'o was co-counsel for former Rwandan military leader Samuel Imanishimwe.

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Imanishimwe is on trial with two other suspects accused of genocide in the Cyangugu region of southwest Rwanda in 1994. His co-accused are former Cyangugu prefect Emmanuel Bagambiki and former Transport Minister André Ntagerura. All three have pleaded not guilty to charges of genocide and crimes against humanity. Imanishimwe's lead counsel Marie-Louise Mbida had earlier filed a motion seeking Mr. So'o's discharge. She cited a letter by So'o signed April 24th this year in which he declared his inability to continue serving Imanishimwe's defence team. A response signed May 17th by ICTR Registrar Adama Dieng states that Mr So'o's request has been granted. It says that exceptional circumstances apply in this case and the co-counsel is not in a position to offer effective services to the accused for medical reasons. Mbida told Hirondelle news agency that she was looking for another co-counsel. "I knew he was unwell and cannot continue with the case," she said. "I am following the procedure of getting another counsel. "A defence investigator on Mbida's team was last week arrested on suspicion of genocide. Siméon Nshamihigo was detained by the Tanzanian police at the request of the ICTR. On Friday he was handed over to the Tribunal to face genocide charges. The court is still to make a ruling in the Imanishimwe case on a request that the Prosecutor should have any case documents that might be seized from Nshamihigo. Mbida says they should be given to the defence. The Cyangugu trial is heard by Trial Chamber Three of the ICTR, composed of Judges Lloyd Williams of St Kitts and Nevis (presiding), Yakov Ostrovsky of Russia and Pavel Dolenc of Slovenia. The next hearing is on June 4th. SW/JC/PHD/FH (CY0525e)