Arusha, October 26, 2001 (FH) - Former Rwandan mayor Francois Karera on Friday pleaded not guilty to four counts of genocide and crimes against humanity before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR). Karera, 62, was prefect (governor) of Kigali-Rural province, in central Rwanda, during the 1994 genocide.

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He was arrested in Nairobi, Kenya, last Saturday. "I plead not guilty," Karera responded calmly in French to each of the four counts in the indictment: genocide or, in the alternative, complicity in genocide; extermination or, in the alternative, murder, as crimes against humanity. The prosecutor accuses Karera of "planning, instigating, ordering, committing, or otherwise aiding and abetting in the planning, preparation or execution" of the genocide in various locations in Kigali-Rural and Kigali-Urban provinces. The indictment states that Karera, after the death of President Habyarimana on April 6, 2001, lured Tutsis to take refuge at Ntarama church in Kigali-Rural prefecture, promising them security but instead called in soldiers, Interahamwe militia and Presidential guards to kill the refuges. "Now you people have been fighting the Tutsi for one week but now the job will be finished," Karera is quoted as having told the attackers. "I don't want to see one Tutsi person alive in Ntarama secteur by tonight. "Karera is also accused of having, after executing killings of Tutsis in Nyamirambo in Kigali city, requested that a family be spared so he could "see how long a Tutsi could survive without food or water". "The occupants of the home were locked inside for over two months, and were unable to leave without risking attack or death at the hands of communal police acting under the orders of Francois Karera," says the indictment. "Consequently, several occupants of this household were starved to death. "Karera is also accused of having distributed weapons to soldiers, communal police and civilian militias in Nyamirambo, "knowing and intending that they would be used in attacks upon civilian Tutsis"The plea was entered before Judge Navanethem Pillay of South Africa. Prosecution is represented by Steven Boi Tia of the US and Charles Phillips of Nigeria/UK. Karera was represented in court by Tanzanian duty counsel Bharat Chada. GG/JC/PHD/FH (KR1026e)