Arusha, October 10, 2001 (FH) - Former Rwandan prefect and alleged death squad leader Protais Zigiranyirazo on Wednesday pleaded not guilty to two counts of crimes against humanity before the UN's International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR). Zigiranyirazo, alias "Mr.

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Z", told presiding judge Navanethem Pillay of South Africa he was surprised to be arrested and brought before the ICTR in relation to the 1994 events in Rwanda. "I would believe that as the first victim of these events, the ICTR would have hastened to render justice to me," the grey-haired, bespectacled 63-year-old told the court. Dressed in a dark suit with light blue shirt and yellow tie, he asked to remain seated, saying he did not feel very well. "It is the attack against the plane of President Juvénal Habyarimana (on April 6th, 1994) which was the detonator of the tragedy," said Mr. Z. "It happened that President Habyarimana and his personal secretary, Colonel Elie Sagatwa, who found death in this wretched attack, were respectively my brother-in-law and my young brother. I would have thought that as the first victim of these events, the ICTR would have hastened to render justice to me. ""It goes without saying that the truth on this attack constitutes the cornerstone of any just and fair trial," he continued, saying allegations that the Habyarimana family were behind the attack were part of a "vast untrue propaganda and all kinds of slander directed against me and my family and even of unfounded allegations against my person by the Prosecutor of this Tribunal. "Mr. Z asked that he be given the results of any UN investigations into the plane crash. "I do hope that the results of these investigations will be put at my disposal as soon as possible since they are of high importance for the preparation of my defence," he said. Judge Pillay, sitting alone on the bench, told Mr. Z he could raise the matter in a motion at a later date, for disclosure of "whatever documents may be in the possession of the Prosecutor in relation to investigations on the crash". The Tribunal has under seal a report by former UN investigator Michael Hourigan which suggests the RPF, now in power in Kigali, may have been behind the plane crash that sparked the 1994 genocide. This has already been disclosed to some defence teams. The Prosecutor is believed to be in possession of further details on the Hourigan investigations. Zigiranyirazo is charged with one count of extermination, or alternatively murder, as crimes against humanity. The charges relate mainly to killings carried out at roadblocks near his residences during the 1994 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 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. Zigiranyirazo was arrested in Belgium at the end of July, on an arrest warrant from the ICTR. He had been detained at Brussels airport in early June because of doubts about his travel documents, and was kept in an asylum seekers centre as the ICTR drew up an indictment. JC/FH (ZI1010e)