Arusha, 20 July 2007 (FH)-The defence of Father Emmanuel Rukundo, accused of genocide, will enter its third week next Monday before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR).

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Rukundo, 48, was to call the first defence witness on July 2 but the proceedings were adjourned for a week following the arrest in Rwanda of a defence investigator.

Rukundo was a military chaplain in 1994. The Prosecutor alleges that he took part in the massacres of Tutsis in Kabgayi, in central Rwanda. He has pleaded not guilty.

Among the witnesses who came to his rescue this week figures one of the authors of the massacres of Kabgayi. He affirmed that he did not see Rukundo during the attacks.

The Prosecutor places the defendant on several sites in Kabgayi; in particular, at the Seminary of Saint-Leon, the Saint-Joseph center and an area called TRAFIPRO.

The witness stated to have collected all the information on the massacres in Kabgayi when he was in detention for the same acts. His conclusion is that Rukundo played no part there.

The indictment against the priest also includes allegations relating to the events prior to 1994, notably the extremism at the school.

According to the Prosecutor, Rukundo, a Hutu, had hated his Tutsi colleagues since 1973.

Defence witnesses, who studied with him, indicated that he, rather, lived in harmony with everyone.

The Prosecutor affirms that the extremism of the accused would have been accentuated in 1990 after the invasion of the country by Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF).

The witnesses for the defence reported that he had never demonstrated political activism.

Arrested in Switzerland in 2001, Rukundo has been on trial since 15 November 2006. He is defended by Aicha Condé (France) and Allison Turner (Canada).

He is the fourth priest indicted by the ICTR. The three others are Athanase Seromba, former vicar in Nyange (western Rwanda), Hormisdas Nsengimana, vice-chancellor of the prestigious College du Christ-Roi of Nyanza (southern Rwanda) and Wenceslas Munyeshyaka, a priest at the Sainte-Famille parish in Kigali.

Seromba was sentenced to 15 years in prison in first instance while Nsengimana is, like Rukundo, still on trial.

Munyeshyaka, for his part, is in France. The Prosecutor has asked that he be tried in this country but his motion is still under examination before a chamber of the ICTR.

Apart from the Rukundo trial, the tribunal only other proceedings this week were in the Karemera case. This joint trial, where the Prosecutor is currently presenting evidence, involves three former leaders of the former ruling party, the Mouvement Républicain National pour la Démocratie et le Développement (MRND).

The defendants are Edouard Karemera, former Minister of the Interior and former vice-president of the MRND, Mathieu Ngirumpatse, president of the party, and Joseph Nzirorera, the secretary-general.

One of the witnesses of the week was Fidèle Uwizeye, prefect of Gitarama (central Rwanda) in 1994.

The defence lawyers had initially opposed his testimony, accusing him of perjury; but the chamber overruled them.

© Hirondelle News Agency