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Arusha, January 17 2007 (FH) – Joseph Nzabirinda, a former youth organizer who has pleaded guilty, expressed his deep remorse Wednesday before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) Nzabirinda, 50, was speaking during a pre-sentencing hearing. Last December 14, the accused pleaded guilty of having helped and supported two murders by omission as an « approving spectator ». The chamber accepted his avowal of guilt. « Today, a day that will remain in my memory, I take the floor with due respect to express before this court and the international community my deep remorse over my culpable omissions », Nzabirinda told the judges. « I have been weak to let fear overcome lucidity and courage. I carry deep remorse », he continued. Nzabirinda then asked for the forgiveness of the families that were harmed, of the entire Rwandan people and of all the victims and survivors of the genocide. He promised that, in the future, he would be fighting every face of sectarianism. "I’ll make sure I do everything that is possible so that no genocide ever happens again », he said to conclude. His lead counsel, Mr. François Roux (France), pleading mitigating circumstances, asked the tribunal to go by the range of sentence the prosecution and the defence have agreed upon. In a guilty plea agreement, both parties have decided to suggest the judges to impose a sentence of five to eight years imprisonment. « It’s in your hands; you can open a new door, create a new jurisprudence. This has never been done before in this tribunal » Mr. Roux invited the judges. The minimum sentence the ICTR has imposed so far is six years in prison. Nzabirinda’s co-counsel, Mr. Jean Haguma (Rwanda) has declared that, if his client’s avowal of guilt was not taken in consideration by the chamber, « It may defer the reconciliation we’re waiting for » in Rwanda. As for Nzabirinda’s mitigating circumstances, the defence and prosecution have notably listed his remorse, the guilty plea, his cooperation with justice and the fact that he was not personally involved in the crimes. Before the defence, the prosecutor himself had explained the benefits of the defendant’s guilty plea. The defence has presented five character witnesses. The day of the sentence has not been announced yet. MG/AT/PB © Hirondelle News Agency