Arusha, 28 September 2007 (FH) - Simon Bikindi, the renowned Rwandan musician accused of inciting genocide, started his defence this week before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR).   

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Arrested on 12 July 2001 in Leiden, the Netherlands, Bikindi, 53, has been on trial since 18 September 2006. The prosecutor called 17 witnesses in this case.
The principal counsel for Bikindi, Andreas O' Shea of the Bar of England and Wales, announced that his client would call 42 witnesses for the defence.
O' Shea stated that he intended to prove that his clients was not a politician dedicated to the Tutsi genocide as described by the prosecutor, but a simple artist.
The prosecution submitted into evidence three songs from Bikindi and it affirmed that they convey a message of hatred against Tutsis. Bikindi has rebutted that the prosecution is mistaken.
The defendant will call, notably, an expert linguist to contradict the prosecution theory. He had also called a linguist who had collaborated with a historian.
O' Shea declared that the Bikindi's songs fit certainly into a historical context but that the artist was not interested by politics.
In 1994, Bikindi worked at the Ministry for Youth and Sport and was responsible for a folkloric ballet. Several members of his troop came to testify on his character.
Several members of his troop came to testify on his character. They presented him as a man who did not practice ethnic discrimination.
Besides the Bikindi trial, three other cases continued this week before the ICTR: Rukundo, Government II and Butare.
Emmanuel Rukundo is a catholic priest who, in 1994, was a military chaplain. His trial started in November 2006. The witness testimonies should end on October 5 after he has testified for his own defence.

In the Government II trial, four former ministers have been on trial since November 2003. It is the third co-defendant, the former Foreign Minister Jérôme Bicamumpaka, who is currently presenting his defence by putting forward to the tribunal that he was exclusively occupied with diplomatic contacts.
On Wednesday, the ICTR requested that Paris cooperate with the Bicamumpaka's defence, who wishes to meet with seven French diplomats who would be potentials witness for his alibi.
Among them are the former ambassadors to Kigali, Kinshasa and New York; respectively Jean-Michel Marlaud, Jacques Depaigne and Jean-Bernard Mérimée.
Bicamumpaka also intends to call for his defence other foreign diplomats, including the Belgium ambassador to Rwanda in 1994, Johann Swinnen. The chamber also requested that the Belgian government cooperate in this manner.
In Butare, a group trial gathering six defendants that started in June 2001, it is the fifth co-defendant who is calling witnesses for the defence.
The former mayor of Ngoma, Joseph Kanyabashi, was defended this week by Belgian Professor Filip Reyntjens, a specialist in Rwanda who has, on several occasions, testified for the prosecution.
He broke with the prosecution in January 2005, denouncing the non prosecution of elements of the Rwandan former rebellion suspected of war crimes committed in 1994.

Reyntjens stated that Kanyabashi was opposed to the genocide but that he could not give up his post out of fear of being killed.
The week will see the resumption of the Karemera trial in which three former high ranking officials of the former single party are being tried. This trial began in September 2005 and should, according to its president, who also presides the ICTR, be completed in the first quarter of 2009.

© Hirondelle News Agency