Arusha, 18 June 2007 (FH) - The trial of Abbot Hormisdas Nsengimana, one of the three catholic priests detained by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR ) will begin on Friday.

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Former vice-rector of the College of Christ - King of Nyanza, in the south of Rwanda, Abbot Nsengimana, who pled not guilty, is accused of genocide and crimes against humanity (assassinations and extermination), according to the acting indictment.

The Prosecutor alleges that the priest, now 53 years old, was "the spiritual leader" of a group called "the Dragons" or "Death Squads" which were responsible for many massacres in the area of Nyanza. The churchman is accused of, in person, coldly killing an old Tutsi priest who lived in the college and "to have stabbed" six Tutsi women. He would have, in addition, ordered to the employees and to the students of the college to hunt down and kill Tutsis.

The Nsengimana trial will proceed before a Chamber presided by the Norwegian Judge Erik Mose, who will be assisted by the Russian Sergei Egorov and the Cameroonian Florence Ritta Arrey.

The defense will be represented by the Frenchman Emmanuel Altit and the Briton David Hooper.

Two other abbots, Athanase Seromba, already convicted in first instance to 15 years of prison, and Emmanuel Rukundo, awaiting judgment, are locked up in the ICTR detention unit. Two other men of the cloth were indicted by the ICTR: Adventist Pastor Elizaphan Ntakirutimana, died at the beginning of 2007 after having completed his 10 years sentence, and Anglican Bishop Samuel MUsabyimana, died in prison two years after his arrest.

In addition to Abbot Nsengimana, 7 others accused that are detained by the ICTR are awaiting the opening of their trials and, according to the Office of the Prosecutor, three of them will be, if the judges authorize it, transferred to Rwandan courts. Furthermore, a well informed source at the Tribunal indicates, at least two of them are in negotiations with the Prosecutor for a guilty plea.

© Hirondelle News Agency