Arusha, 11 June 2008 (FH) - The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) has issued a subpoena for a Rwandan linguist living in Canada, Leon Mugesera, accused by his country to have incited the genocide with an infamous speech made in 1992, reports independent Hirondelle Agency.  

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Mugesera's testimony was requested by the defence of Joseph Nzirorera, former Secretary-General of the then ruling National Republican Movement for Democracy and Development (MRND), who is on a joint trial with two other top party leaders-- president Mathieu Ngirumpatse and his vice-president, Edouard Karemera. All three have pleaded not guilty to genocide and crimes against humanity.

"The Chamber grants Nzirorera's motion that Mugesera be subpoenaed to testify...that testimony be made by video-link", according to a court ruling, whose copy was availed on Wednesday to Hirondelle. The chamber also ordered the Registry to undertake the necessary logistics for video-link testimony.

The defence intends with the testimony to refute allegations that MRND leaders conveniently closed their eyes on the inflammatory speech pronounced by Mugesera on 22 November 1992 in Kabaya ,northern Rwanda, and helped him flee the country so as to escape legal proceedings.

In Kinyarwanda language, the speaker allegedly recalled in front of a packed crowd of MRND party members, the remarks which he had made a few days earlier to an ethnic Tutsi: "That your motherland is Ethiopia and that we will ensure that you will be dispatched by the (river) Nyabarongo for you to arrive there quickly". Two years later, thousands of ethnic Tutsis were killed and hurled into the Nyabarongo River.

During the 1994 genocide, bodies were thrown, dead or alive, in this river whose name has, since then, become infamous globally.

A first motion requesting to subpoena Mugesera was rejected on 19 February because the Chamber considered that Nzirorera's defence had not done enough to obtain a voluntary appearance. At the end of new futile effort, Nzirorera's lawyers filed a second motion on 3 March.

Subsequently, the judges had asked the Registry, the department in charge of the administration of the Tribunal, to contact the witness. The Registry's report indicated that Mugesera does not say if he would testify or not.

The Chamber decided to render a decision forcing him to appear. But, as his current immigration status does not enable him to return to Canada if he was to suddenly leave that country, the judges authorized the defence to resort to videoconference.

In 2005, the Supreme Court of Canada decided in favour of Mugesera's extradition to Kigali, but the Canadian government had then declared that it would not hand him over because capital punishment was still part of the Rwandan criminal code.

However, the death sentence has been abolished since last year by Rwanda, partly to encourage countries to extradite genocide accused.

The MRND official's trial re-started in September 2005 after cancellation of the first proceedings.


© Hirondelle News Agency