Montreal, 8 January 2008 (FH) - The trial of Desire Munyaneza, a Rwandan refugee accused of participating in the 1994 genocide, resumed Monday in Montreal with the defendant's sister testifying as the first defence witness.

1 min 18Approximate reading time

Delphine Uwimbabazi, 34, arrived from Belgium, where she has resided since 2000, to testify for her brother.

"We will establish that Mr Munayneza is not guilty of the alleged crimes '', claimed Richard Perras, lawyer of the accused. The trial is before Judge Andre Denis.

"Through our testimonies, we will show the false allegations made by prosecution witnesses ", Perras stated at the start of the trial.

After taking an oath, the sister of the defendant told the court how the family life was organized in their house in Butare(Southern Rwanda) during the first hours of the genocide.

At the time, Munyneza still lived in the residence of his parents. Easy going business people, the latter had a large house as well as another home, which made it possible to accommodate family fleeing the massacres.

This description that reminded of Noah's Ark was not benign: certain witnesses previously called by the prosecution had claimed that Munyaneza had separated them in the family residence.

The testimony of Mrs Uwimbabazi continued in closed session at the request of the defence.

Indicted for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide, Munyaneza has been on trial before the Superior Court of Quebec since 26 March 2007.

According to the UN estimates, 800, 000 deaths occurred between April and July 1994.

The prosecution which rested its case in October,last year, called 28 witnesses some whom alleged that Munyaneza directed the notorious militia, armed with machetes and clubs, and supervised road blocks in Butare.

The defence expects to call between 25 and 30 witnesses, of which the majority reside outside Rwanda --in North America, Europe, Tanzania and Kenya.

Three individuals are expected to appear before the Court of First Instance of Paris between 15 and 24 January. At the request of the Canadian court, the proceedings will be conducted in a closed session.

Judge Denis expects to finish the trial before 31 June 2008.

© Hirondelle News Agency