09.08.07 - RWANDA/JUSTICE - VERDICT SATURDAY IN THE APPEAL OF A FAMOUS HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVIST

Arusha, 9 August 2007 (FH) - A famous Rwandan human rights activist, François-Xavier Byuma, sentenced to 19 years in prison for participating in the 1994 genocide, will hear Saturday the verdict in his appeal, it was learned Thursday from a local associative source.
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The human rights activist has already appeared three times before the semi-traditional gacaca court of appeal of the Biryogo sector, in Kigali.

At the end of the last session, 4 August, the chamber scheduled for next Saturday the closing arguments and the appeal judgment, according to the Rwandan League for the Protection and the Defense of the Human Rights, LIPRODHOR, an organization which Byuma is member.

On 4 August, six witnesses for the defence unanimously stated that the defendant had played no role in the attacks or in the slaughters perpetrated in the Biryogo sector from April to July 1994.

The judges also received the written testimony of Pascal Mutuyeyezu, the former driver of the former Councillor of the Biryogo sector during the genocide, Amri Karekezi.

The text of Mutuyeyezu refutes all the charges against Byuma by a survivor called Batamuliza, the allegations at the origin of the first instance judgment.

The driver stated that Byuma never led the woman to the sector office, nor telephoned to Amri Karekezi from this building to ask him whether he knew Batamuliza.

Mutuyeyezu who states, in his letter, that he was the full-time driver of the Concillor, stated that the keys to the sector office were kept by Karekezi and that Byuma could, thus, not have had access to the telephone in the office.

The appeal judges decided to hear Mutuyeyezu next Saturday before ruling on the very same day.

A new witness for the prosecution which had not testified in first instance will also be heard.

Byuma was sentenced to 19 years in prison on 27 May after having been found guilty of, among others, hitting Batamuliza and kidnapping her with the intention to kill her.

This judgment had been criticized by local and international human rights associations.

According to these organizations, bad blood would exist between the human rights activist and the president of the gacaca court of first instance of Biryogo, Sudi Imanzi, who Byuma accused in a report of having raped a girl.

Inspired by Rwandan tradition, the gacacas (pronounced gatchatcha) courts, conducted by non-professional judges, appointed on the basis of the only criterion of moral integrity, are charged with trying the majority of the persons accused of having taking part in the 1994 genocide.

ER/MM/AT
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