Arusha, October 9, 2001 (FH) - Former Rwandan mayor Ignace Bagilishema, the first person to be acquitted by the UN's International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) left Arusha on Monday night bound for France, according to witnesses. ICTR chief of Press and Information Tom Kennedy confirmed on Tuesday morning that Bagilishema had taken a KLM regular flight to Paris, via Amsterdam.

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An ICTR trial court acquitted Bagilishema of genocide and crimes against humanity charges on June 7th, but he remained in UN custody in Arusha in search of a host country. France, which turned down a first request to take Bagilishema, changed its mind last month after a further request from the ICTR. "This decision was taken in the spirit of cooperation which France has always had towards the Tribunal, also in the superior interests of international criminal justice and its fundamental principles, which includes the presumption of innocence," said François Rivasseau, spokesman for the French Foreign Ministry, on September 20th. "Mr. Bagilishema will be received and will be able to stay in France until the appeal hearing. "The court attached conditions to Bagilishema's release, after the Prosecutor announced an appeal and asked that he be kept in custody. For example, Bagilishema is required to have two people of good reputation as guarantors that he will show up in court, must hand in his passport to police in his country of residence and report to them once a month. He will not be able to leave France without permission from the ICTR. Ignace Bagilishema, 46, was mayor of Mabanza in the west Rwandan prefecture of Kibuye from 1980 to 1994. He is represented by lawyers François Roux of France and Maroufa Diabira of Mauritania. Bagilishema's defence team have asked the ICTR Appeals Court to throw out the Prosecutor's appeal because the grounds are not laid out. "The ICTR's Rules of Procedure and Evidence say that a notice of appeal must set forth the grounds," Roux told Hirondelle. "But we don't think three paragraphs with no details of fact or of law can be considered as having done so. "AT/JC/FH (BS1009E)