Arusha, September 5, 2001 (FH) - The UN's International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) has wrongly accused former Rwandan prefect Protais Zigiranyirazo of involvement in the 1994 genocide, says his Belgian lawyer Luc de Temmerman. "Mr Protais Zigiranyirazo considers himself completely innocent, as he has had no influence in Rwandan politics since1989 and did not belong to any group except for being the brother-in-law of the former Rwandan head of state," said De Temmerman in a statement sent this week to Hirondelle.

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Zigiranyirazo, known as "Mr. Z", is in detention in Belgium, awaiting transfer to the ICTR. He is charged with one count of extermination, or alternatively murder, as a crime against humanity. The charges relatemainly to killings carried out at roadblocks near his residences during genocide. Mr. Z was prefect of Ruhengeri in northwest Rwanda from 1974 to 1989 and was also a wealthy businessman. The ICTR indictment says he was perceived as a member of the "Akazu", the powerful circle around former president Juvénal Habyarimana. It also links him to death squads and the so-called"Zero Network" which, according to human rights organizations, were set up after Tutsi RPF guerrillas invaded Rwanda in 1990. However, De Temmerman says that "the facts contained in the indictment are a collection of deliberate errors and lies, unworthy of an international court". He says that the concepts of the Akazu, death squadsand the Zero Network are "political inventions put about after the introduction of multiparty politics in Rwanda by so-called human rights organizations and irresponsible journalists both inside and outside Rwanda". "It is with great confidence that my client will appear before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda to demystify the power of a brother-in-law of a president," writes De Temmerman. He says he considers the accusations against his client as a "brutal attack on the Habyarimana family which has had its head of family assassinated without Mrs. Carla Del Ponte (ICTR Prosecutor) feeling the need to bring to justice the authors of that attack which triggered mayhem in Rwanda". De Temmerman says his client will be transferred to the ICTR after appearing before the Belgian Court of Cassation (highest court for criminal and civil cases), in accordance with Belgium's law on cooperation with the UN's two ad hoc tribunals. Mr. Z was arrested in Belgium on July 26th. De Temmerman is no stranger to the ICTR, having briefly defended former militia leader Georges Rutaganda in the Tribunal's early days. Currently De Temmerman is also representing former Rwandan army officer Bernard Ntuyahaga. Ntuyahaga was released by the ICTR on technical grounds on March 18th, 1999, but was re-arrested by the Tanzanian authorities the same day, and now faces possible extradition to Rwanda. AT/JC/FH (ZI0905e)