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Arusha, 18 May 2007 (FH) - Colonel Théoneste Bagosora, presented by the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (TPIR) as "the mastermind" of the 1994 genocide, requested the recusal of his judges, less than two weeks before the Prosecution's closing arguments and the defense arguments.

"We respectfully submit and pray the Bureau to order that the President of Trial Chamber I designate a new bench for consideration of the final judgment"", indicates in English the motion filed on Thursday by Bagosora's lawyers. They do not ask for a new trial, only for the recusal of the judges at this stage of the procedures.

The "Bureau", the competent body to rule on this kind of motion, includes that the President and the Vice-President of the Chamber, as well as the Presidents of the three other first instance Chambers of the ICTR.

In support of the motion, the defense accuses the three judges to have rendered, during the trial, decisions supporting the opposing party, to have refused to examine certain motions of the defense. They assert, in addition, that the Chamber often rendered orders without legal basis and did not give the defense necessary time. What leads them to conclude that the defendant has reasons to fear that the Chamber, thus, will render a biased judgment at the end of the trial.

Bagosora and his co-accused are on trial since 2 April 2002 in front of Judges Erik Mose (Norway), Jai Ram Reddy (Fiji) and Serguei Egorov (Russian Federation).

The other accused are the former Chief of the military operations at the High Commandment of the Army, the Brigadier General Gratien Kabiligi, the former Commander of operations of Gisenyi (northern Rwanda), Lieutenant-Colonel Anatole Nsengiyumva, and the former Commander of the paracommando battalion, Major Aloys Ntabakuze.

Tried for crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, the four officers pleaded not guilty.

The closing arguments of the Prosecutor and the defense arguments are scheduled for 28 May to 1 June. The final report of the Prosecutor is at least 1000 pages, in this trial considered as one most important at the ICTR.

Since the beginning of trials in 1997, this Tribunal, created by a Security Council Resolution in November 1994, has to date rendered 28 convictions and 5 acquittals.

© Hirondelle News Agency