Arusha, September 13, 2002 (FH) - The trial of media personalities accused of inciting the 1994 genocide resumes on Monday at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR). The three accused will be requesting the court to acquit.

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The so-called 'media trial' and the recently opened 'military trial' are considered to be the most important trials at the ICTR since its creation in November 1994. The three accused in the media trial are: founder member and alleged mastermind of Radio-télévision Libre des Mille collines (RTLM), Ferdinand Nahimana, former editor of the newspaper "Kangura", Hassan Ngeze and former director of political affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and member of the board at RTLM, Jean Bosco Barayagwiza. They are charged with several counts of genocide, direct and public incitement to commit genocide, complicity in genocide and crimes against humanity. An estimated one million ethnic Tutsis and politically moderate Hutus were killed in the 1994 genocide according to an official census by the government of Rwanda. The trial which started on October 23rd, 2000 was adjourned several times before the last adjournment on July 12, 2002. Prior to the adjournment, the prosecutor had rested its case with 47 witnesses. The prosecution had initially listed 100 witnesses. The defence is scheduled to begin presenting its witnesses at the resumption of trial on Monday. Observers however say that hearing of defence witnesses may be put off for some time until the chamber considers the motions for acquittal. Acquit Nahimana and Ngeze?If appealing for acquittal after the prosecutor's is an everyday affair at the ICTR, the particularity of this one is that the lawyers are demanding acquittal on all counts and immediate release of their clients. In the past, pretty modest requests have been made. Former Rwandan minister of higher education Jean de Dieu Kamuanda and former military officer Lieutenant Samuel Imanishimwe have been acquitted of the charge of conspiracy to commit genocide. Nahimana and Ngeze are each charged with seven counts. Barayagwiza faces eight counts. In their motion, Nahimana's lead counsel, Jean-Marie Biju Duval of France and Diana Ellis of the UK argue that none of the charges held against the accused have been "proven or established beyond reasonable doubt". "Consequently", contends Nahimana's defence, " none of the seven counts can be held against the accused. " One after the other, the lawyers have shredded paragraphs of the prosecution evidence and concluded that no element of proof comes anywhere close to establishing Nahimana's guilt. Notably, the defence asserts that no proof has been produced indicating that the creation of RTLM and Kangura were part of a strategy by cronies of former Rwandan president Juvenal Habyarimana to set up an anti-Tutsi media. The defence has also stated that most of the allegations brought against Nahimana occurred during periods outside the mandate of the tribunal. The ICTR has jurisdiction on crimes committed between January 1st, 1994 and December 31st, 1994. The tribunal however admits evidence before that period provided it is meant to establish previous criminal conduct. Nahimana's defence further challenges that the prosecutor has failed to demonstrate that he was the "ideologue of RTLM", belonged to "Hutu power" groups opposed to power sharing with the Tutsi or belonged to the hard-line Hutu party, Coalition pour la defence de la République (CDR). Ngeze's defence counsels, John Floyd of the US and René Martel of Canada hold similar views. The two lawyers who, to put it mildly, have not had the most cordial lawyer-client relationship with Ngeze, appear to at least agree with their client that "the prosecutor has presented no proof" on the counts of murder and incitement, that evidence presented was biased and that some legal activities were presented as criminal. Ngeze's defence argues that the former journalist was a brave man who simply excised freedom of expression. "Parody of justice"Barayagwiza has boycotted the trial since its beginning and refused to have any representation in court. He is represented by lawyers appointed by the tribunal. In a 200-page motion, lawyers Giacomo Barletta Caldarera of Italy and Alfred Pognon of Benin say that the accusations against Barayagwiza are based on "lies or sophism"The lawyers assert that none of the prosecution witnesses is credible and that the case is a plot against their client. "Lapse of memory?, human error?, lies, of course!, manipulation, of course!", states the motion. Manipulation is a word cherished by Barayagwiza. He has, since he started boycotting the trial, repeatedly stated that the tribunal is manipulated by the Rwandan government. In march 2000, the ICTR appeals chamber reversed its November 1999 decision to release Barayagwiza on grounds of abuse of his rights from his arrest in Cameroon and detention at the ICTR. The court changed its mind after the prosecutor presented "new facts"Barayagwiza is convinced that Rwanda's suspension of co-operation with the ICTR until the reversal of the decision had enormous influence on the judges. Barayagwiza also says he has no confidence in judges Navanethem Pillay of South Africa and Erik Mose of Norway who, according to him, went to Rwanda "to negotiate a truce" with president Paul Kagame after the crisis of his release. He defines himself as a "political prisoner" detained for his opinion and already condemned. "I remain convinced that this trial is nothing else but a parody of justice mostly because of the constant and blatant interference of Rwanda", he said in a recent press release. "Some people say that I take too many risks in refusing to be represented by a lawyer and to be effectively defended by a lawyer. I keep thinking that the risks would only be real if there were the slightest chance of having a fair trial. But events have proved the contrary. The trial is political just like the conflict that gave birth to it. The sponsors of the tribunal have chosen their side. So has the prosecutor. There's huge pressure upon the judges to make the same choice. In my case, they have already done so. I have already been condemned especially since two of the three judges have re-assured president Kagame on this matter at the end of 2000 just before the opening of this trial. ", states Barayagwiza. He adds that, "only two things remain to be done: to pronounce the judgement and to determine the sentence. "AT/GG/FH(ME-0913e)