Arusha, 28 August, 2008(FH)- The former Governor of Kigali Rural, Francois Karera, 69, has urged the Appeals Court of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) to use their wisdom and quash his life sentence Imposed by the lower court in December,2007.

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"I urge the judges to come with an appropriate judgement and grant me an acquittal,'' he told the five-bench Appeals Chamber Thursday which heard his disagreement over his life sentence.

In a short statement he read before the close of the hearing, Karera pleaded that he was wrongly convicted over the killings in Nyamirambo, Ntarama and Rushashi sectors as claimed by the prosecution.

He also expressed compassion for the victims of the 1994 genocide, including his own relatives.

The genocide convict asked the Chamber to consider his alibi that he was not at the site of the alleged killings in April, 1994.

Earlier, the lead counsel Carmelle Marchessault and her co-cousel Alexandre Bergevin from Canada stated that the lower court's judgement did not do justice to the accused and considered it " as miscarriage of justice and erred in law".

Ms Marchessault emphasized that the evidence did not collaborate with location of the accused, including the distance of road traveling from one site to another.

The alibi, according to Bergevin, was supported by witnesses who were not linked to Karera. "The prosecution ignored the alibi completely,'' he stressed which resulted into lop-sided judgement.

However, senior trial attorney, Dior Fall from Senegal, maintained that the prosecution was correct in its evidence against the accused and the sites of the alleged killings of ethnic Tutsis. "The respondent was involved in the distribution of the weapons and was present at the locations,'' she added. "He was seen at the sites as testified by the witnesses,'' she told the Chamber.

Regarding the alibi, she said it was not the onus of the prosecution to prove it.

Karera was convicted of three counts of genocide and crimes against humanity but was acquitted of complicity to commit genocide, which had been an alternative count to genocide.

Karera was accused of actively taking part in a mass killing of ethnic Tutsis in April 1994 in the province for which he was highest-ranking official. The Tribunal said that Karera's failure to protect his Tutsis constituents was the main determinant in his sentence.

The Chamber found that Karera had ordered instigated and encouraged attacks by Hutu militiamen and soldiers against Tutsis in his prefecture.

In mid-April 1994, militiamen and soldiers arrived in Ntarama sector and attacked Tutsis who had sought shelter at a church because of the killings and violence engulfing the country. Karera was present and encouraged the attackers as they killed hundreds of people at the church.

The judges said that in determining the appropriate sentence for Karera, they "took into account in particular his position of authority and the number of victims who were killed at Ntarama Church."

Karera was arrested in Kenya in October 2001and his trial began in January 2006

The appeal was heard before judges Fausto Pocar of Italy (presiding), Mohamed Shabuddeen (Guyana), Liu Daqun (China), Theodor Meron (United States) and Wolfgang Schomburg (Germany).


© Hirondelle News Agency