1 min 23Approximate reading time

Arusha, March 12, 2007 (FH) - The prosecution closed its case Monday in the trial of the priest Emmanuel Rukundo, being tried for genocide and crimes against humanity before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR). Rukundo, aged 48, is the second Catholic priest on trial before the ICTR, after the former vicar of Nyange (west), Athanase Seromba, sentenced to fifteen years in prison last December. A third Catholic priest, the abbey Hormisdas Nsengimana, is waiting for his trial to start in the coming months. The trial of Emmanuel Rukundo, a former military chaplain, started on November 15, 2006. The prosecution accuses him of participating in the massacres of Tutsis in the center of Rwanda in 1994. He has pleaded not guilty. The senior trial attorney from the prosecution in charge of the case, William Egbe (Cameroom) presented eighteen witnesses. Two among them testified by videoconference. Four witnesses who were on the initial list did not appear because of "problems," William Egbe said, without elaborating. The defense's case will start June 18, the Trial Chamber ordered. Rukundo appeared before Judges Asoka de Silva (Sri Lanka), Taghrid Hikmet (Jordan) and Seon Ki Park (South Korea). Rukundo's lawyer, Mrs. Aicha Conde (France) by announcing 35 witnesses to backup her case, recalled the mainline of her opening statement at the beginning of the trial that her client "was not the person whom the Prosecution described in its indictment." Witnesses will prove that "he spent his time coming to the aid of a series of people," she explained. The prosecution and the defense will come before the three judges on March 4 for a preliminary conference for the presentation of defense witnesses. In the interim, the Trial Chamber will give its decision on two pending requests for the defense. One asks for the callback of the prosecution protected witness BLP, the other, pursuant to the Rules of Procedure and Evidence (Article 98bis) asks for the acquittal of all or part of the counts against him. At the end of the hearing, Mrs. Conde announced the unexpected departure of her co-counsel, Ms. Annie Olivier of the Paris bar. This is the second co-counsel who has withdrawn from this case. AT/PB/KD © Hirondelle News Agency