Arusha, 24 September 2007 (FH) - Simon Bikindi was not a politician but a simple musician, stated his lawyer Monday before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), which is trying him for genocide.

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On trial since 18 September 2006, Bikindi, 53, began presenting his defence case. Andreas O' Shea, the main defence counsel, said his intention is to show that his client was not "a very political man motivated and determined to accomplish the genocide mission" as he had been described by the prosecutor. "We say that this image is deformed and we will prove it through our witnesses", indicated the lawyer.

"A the end of the trial, you will be reassured that Bikindi was a musician and not a politician", he continued. Bikindi's defence intends to prove that the defendant was neither a militia leader nor a powerful orator who "would have found himself in places like prisons or any stages inciting genocide". Witnesses will show that he was "someone who was not interested by politics but by music", concluded the lawyer.

O' Shea, from the Bar of England and Wales, represents Bikindi alongside Jean de Dieu Momo, a Cameroonian lawyer. They plan to call 42 witnesses; including an expert linguist, Rwandan academic, who resides in France, Eugene Shimamungu.

The chamber, however, requested lawyers to shorten their witness list in order to be closer to the number of witnesses called by the prosecution. The prosecutor called 17 witnesses.

Argentine Judge Ines Monica de Roca, who presides the proceedings, indicated that Bikindi will introduce his witnesses in a single session which is to be completed on 9 November.

Director of a folkloric ballet in 1994, Bikindi recruited several Tutsis in his troop and saved several people threatened during the genocide, according to his defence.

The prosecutor described the defendant, rather, as someone who deeply hated Tutsis and who used his singing talents to express this hatred.

The defence intends to call Tutsis who were personally aided by Bikindi between April and July 1994.

Coming from a family of artists, his two parents were dancers and had a passion for music, Bikindi has been composing songs since the age of 17. He was noticed by the Minister for youth and sports who recruited him "not as a politician but to direct the cultural aspects and to encourage ballets through the communes", explained O' Shea.

© Hirondelle News Agency