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Arusha, February 26, 2007 - The conduct of Emmanuel Rukundo, a Catholic priest being tried for genocide before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) was the subject Monday of a serious debate between a witness for the prosecution, a priest also who accused him of extremism, and the priest’s defence. The prosecution witness, a Tutsi priest, specifically accused Father Rukundo, a Hutu, of having organized a demonstration to celebrate the announcement of the death of the Rwandan rebel chief Fred Rwigema, qualifying this as an act of extremism. Rwigema was the Commander in Chief of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) which attacked Rwanda in October 1990 from neighbouring Uganda. He was killed in the first few days of the attack. Emmanuel Rukundo’s lawyer, Ms. Aicha Conde (France) suggested to the witness that, “This march was organized in support of the army throughout the country,” letting it be known that her client had not done anything. In October 1990, Emmanuel Rukundo was the deacon at the Grand Seminary of Nyakibanda. “After the death of Rwigema, Rukundo and his colleagues were extremely eager to organize this demonstration,” declared the witness.” “In Nyabikanda, it was the deputy Prefect who organized this demonstration,” countered Ms. Conde. The witness meanwhile startled the courtroom by situating the death of Rwigema “at the start of 1990.” He did not correct himself until later after the lawyer suggested to him that it was in October. “As the war started in October, he must have died during that month,” he recalled in extremis, without elaborating. As with his predecessors, the protected witness CCN, who is the thirteenth presented by the prosecution, described a seminary faced with ethnic tensions which were inflamed by the war. “In 1990, the Grand Seminary in Nyakibanda was perceived as an RPF bastion,” added Ms. Conde. The debate also addressed a collection of funds destined for the “war effort,” Emmanuel Rukundo allegedly participated in that activity. “There were Rukundo, Balthazar, and Urbain (all students of the Grand Seminary) who volunteered to help collect funds for the war effort,” alleged the witness. The witness added that Rukundo nevertheless stayed in his room while waiting for voluntary contributions. The witness declared that he and his colleagues opposed this initiative, having proposed as an alternative a daily sit-in dedicated to prayers for peace in the country. Ms. Conde remarked that these prayers were a regular activity embedded in the community and prescribed by canonical law, and therefore “totally separated from the events of 1990.” The lawyer also reproached the witness of attempting to dodge questions by resorting to digressions. The witness, supported by the prosecutor, declared that he would not tolerate this treatment. “I do not want to throw myself into a war nor a confrontation with the witness,” was all Ms. Conte responded. The allegations of extremism occur very often in the indictment’s counts of this former military chaplain aged 48 years arrested in Geneva on July 12, 2001. According to the prosecution, “Emmanuel Rukundo was a notorious extremist. He hated the Tutsis. He frequently sparred with his Tutsi colleagues at the Petit Seminary of Kabgayi from around 1973.” At the Grand Seminary, he allegedly declared, according to the prosecution, that this establishment “was a Tutsi fiefdom and that it was difficult to live in this environment as a Hutu and a future priest.” Rukundo was ordained as a priest in July 1991. His trial started November 15, 2006. He has pleaded not guilty. The prosecution should present around twenty witnesses. This is the second priest tried by the ICTR, after Athanase Seromba, former vicar at the parish of Nyange (west), sentenced to fifteen years in prison last December. His trial is currently in appeal. A third priest, Father Hormisdas Nsengimana, the rector of the prestigious College of Christ the King in Nyanza (south) is still awaiting trial. His trial could begin in June. AT/KD © Hirondelle News Agency