Arusha, September 26, 2001 (FH) - Former military chaplain Emmanuel Rukundo on Wednesday pleaded not guilty to four charges of genocide and crimes against humanity before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR). "I would like to confirm to you that I'm innocent as I have always said loud and clear," the 42-year-old Rukundo told the court at the end of the hearing.

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According to his indictment, "Emmanuel Rukundo was known as an extremist. He hated the Tutsi. Since about 1973, he fought against his Tutsi colleagues at the Petit Séminaire of Kabgayi (junior seminary in Gitarama province, central Rwanda)". At the time of the April to July 1994 genocide in Rwanda, he was serving as a chaplain with the former Rwandan army. The Prosecutor says that in April and May he regularly visited places in Kabgayi where Tutsi refugees had gathered, hunting people to be killed. "He was always escorted by soldiers and Interahamwe (extremist Hutu militia) while he was hunting Tutsi refugees to kill," reads the indictment. "During his visits he brought a list that he used to call on the Tutsi and control their whereabouts. Afterwards he passed the list to the soldiers and Interahamwe who took the persons included in the list to kill them. ""Emmanuel Rukundo ordered, instigated, encouraged, aided, abetted the searching out of the Tutsi, passing through house by house and visiting the facilities of the diocese of Kabgayi and the parish of Gitarama, to identify the Tutsis to be killed," continues the indictment. Rukundo is also accused of denouncing his Tutsi colleagues, many of whom were killed, and going to a convent in Butare, southern Rwanda, in May 1994 "to hunt Tutsi who were still alive to kill them". The Prosecutor quotes him as having said in February 1994 that: "Tutsis are a people to destroy, we must fight against them by all means"; and after the genocide: "They had just got what they deserved… They looked for it. "Rukundo left Rwanda after the victory of the pro-Tutsi Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) in July 1994, which ended the genocide. He took refuge in Switzerland where he was arrested on July 12th this year. Rukundo was transferred to the ICTR detention facility in Arusha last Thursday. On Wednesday, the accused first tried to get his initial appearance postponed, arguing that he had not had time to understand the "judicial subtleties" of his indictment. However Norwegian judge Erik Mose, sitting alone on the bench, rejected his request. The accused was represented by Tanzanian duty counsel Bharat Chada. Prosecution was led by Silvana Arbia of Italy. At the end of the hearing, Rukundo demanded the return of documents and objects he claimed were seized at the time of his arrest. Judge Mose told him he should bring this up through a motion at a later date. GG/JC/PHD/FH (RK0926E)