29.02.08 - ICTR/TRIALS - THREE TOP MRND LEADERS BEGIN THEIR DEFENCE IN MARCH

Arusha, 29 February 2008 (FH) - Three top officials of the former governing party begin their defence in March before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), trying key suspects of 1994 genocide, according to the ICTR Spokesman, Roland Amoussouga.
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On trial since 19 September 2005, the accused will call witnesses beginning 10 March. The proceedings are expected to go beyond 31 December 2008; deadline set by the United Nations for the completion of the first instance trials.

The defendants are: Mathieu Ngirumpatse, Edouard Karemera and Joseph Nzirorera, president, second vice-president and secretary-general respectively of the National Republican Movement for Democracy and Development (MRND), the party of the former Head of State Juvenal Habyarimana, whose death, on 6 April 1994, during an air attack, sparked the genocide.

All these cases are at the defence stage.

The appeal chamber will hold two hearings in March, Amoussouga told reporters on Friday.

The chamber will render its judgment in the case of Athanase Seromba, a Catholic Priest accused of genocide on March 12.

Seromba was sentenced to fifteen years in prison on 13 December 2006, for having facilitated the massacre of approximately 1 500 Tutsis who had taken refuge in his church in 1994.

On 13 March, the appeal chamber will hear arguments from the parties in the case of Tharcisse Muvunyi, an officer of the former Rwandan army sentenced to 12 years in prison on 12 September 2006.

The tribunal will on March 14 also release GAA, a protected witness arrested last June in Rwanda and sentenced to nine months in prison on 3 December for contempt of the tribunal.

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