Arusha, 10 July 2007 (FH)-Former mayor Joseph Kanyabashi was "powerless" during the genocide of Tutsis of which he is accused before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), argued on Tuesday his lawyer.   

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"Kanyabashi was powerless", declared Canadian lawyer Michel Marchand in introducing the defence witnesses that will be called in August.
Kanyabashi, 70, was the mayor of Ngoma in Butare in the south of Rwanda in 1994. He is accused of committing massacres in his commune. He has pleaded not guilty.
"What power had burgomaster (mayor) Kanyabashi who could not even prevent the death of his relatives? Other authorities were able to protect Tutsi friends or relatives", pointed out Marchand.
The defence lawyer named the members of the accused’s family-in-law that were killed in the church of Ngoma and in the neighbouring commune of Huye by soldiers accompanied by civilians.
According to Marchand, Mayor Kanyabashi "was nothing more than a figure" compared to the very powerful "genocidary forces".  
"How Mr Kanyabashi already qualified, prior to 94, as a Kanyabatutsi (friend of the Tutsis) could have prevented the soldiers, who had decided to put themselves at the service of the genocide, from massacring Tutsis who had found refuge in Ngoma", questioned his defence.
"Having been a beloved burgomaster of his population lasting twenty years, it is normal that this population believed that he was able to stop the genocide", continued the lawyer.
"Unfortunately, that of which he was able in normal times was reduced to zero from the moment the genocidary forces decided to control the town of Butare which until then had resisted the fatal madness which had already reached several prefectures and even certain parts of the prefecture of Butare," he explained.
Marchand indicated that Kanyabashi "is deeply hurt” by the genocide committed on thousands of Tutsis that were his administered and the death of Hutus opposed to the genocide.
The defendant intends to show "that he did not order nor took part in the atrocities committed in his commune between April and July 1994".
The chamber ordered that Kanyabashi call thirty witnesses. He appealed and asked for the addition of at least fifteen others. The decision is still being awaited.
Arrested on 28 June 1995 in Belgium, Kanyabashi has been on trial since 12 June 2001 with five others originating from Butare. He will be the fifth accused in this trial, known as the "Butare" group, to present his defence.
After the opening statement of Marchand, the proceedings were adjourned until 20 August.
© Hirondelle News Agency