Arusha, 27 February 2008 (FH) - The Appeals Court will deliver judgment on March 12 for Athanase Seromba, first Catholic Priest to be prosecuted by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), which is trying key suspects of 1994 genocide, reports Hirondelle Agency.

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The prosecution has requested for life in prison against the clergyman when winding up the trial in November, last year. The defence has sought for outright acquittal of the priest.

The priest had appealed against 15 years jail rendered by the ICTR‘s lower court in 2006.

Vicar of the parish of Nyange, in the north-west of the country, during the1994 genocide, Seromba was sentenced for his role in the massacre of almost 1, 500 people who had taken refuge in his church in April 1994.

Seromba had accepted the decision of the administrative authorities to destroy the church which had sheltered ethnic Tutsis. The refugees were trapped inside and died.

The church was destroyed on 16 April 1994 using a bulldozer. The priest advised the driver of the bulldozer to begin demolition from the most fragile part of the building.

The trial appeal attorney, Alfred Orono Orono, has asked the chamber to also convict Seromba for the planning and perpetration of the genocide.

The defence counsel, Patrice Monthe, has denounced "the fragile and extremely thin character of the prosecution and the case be dismissed".

Seromba claimed his innocence in his closing remarks before the chamber and said: "The will of God will be done".

© Hirondelle News Agency