Arusha, August 14, 2003 (FH) - Lawyers for the former Prefect of Cyangugu (south-west Rwanda), Emmanuel Bagambiki, Wednesday asked the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) to acquit their client. Seydou Doumbia, a Belgian of Malian descent, and Vincent Lurquin from Belgium took turns in declaring that the prosecution had not proven beyond reasonable doubtthe accusations levelled against Bagambiki.

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"On April 6, 1994, Bagambiki refused to cross the Ruzizi Bridge (marking the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo) in order to save lives. His regret is not having been able to save them all", argued Lurquin. The Belgian lawyer was alluding to assertions by the prosecutor that if Bagambiki could not stop the massacres, he should have fled. He added that his client had no criminal intent as the prosecutor had alleged. Lurquin continued that wherever refugees had assembled in Cyangugu, Bagambiki had done all he could to protect them. He said that he was helped in that task by the Gendarmerie, religious and local authorities. In the same breath, Bagambikis lawyer dismissed all prosecution evidence as baseless. Doumbia on his part pointed out loopholes in the indictment and accused the prosecutor of bringing forward a totally vague dossier. According to the lawyer, the case file was nothing less that judicially aberrantthat Bagambiki could be accused of genocide. Bagambikli is jointly charged with the former minister of transport in the interim government, André Ntagerura, and the former commander of Karambo barracks in Cyangugu, Lieutenant Samuel Imanishimwe. The so-called Cyangugu trialbegan September 18, 2000 and is being heard in Trial Chamber Three of the ICTR composed of Judge Lloyd George Williams of St. Kitts and Nevis (presiding), Yakov Ostrovsky of Russia, and Pavel Dolenc from Slovenia. KN/GA/AT/FH (CY'0814e)