Arusha, 1 October 2008 (FH) - Joseph Nzabirinda, former agent in charge of sporting activities and co-ops in a commune in southern Rwanda, will be released from prison on 19 December after having served a seven-year sentence to which he had been convicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), reports Hirondelle Agency.

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Nzabirinda, arrested in 2001 in Brussels where he was an investigator for an ICTR defence team, was convicted in February 2007 after having been found guilty of murder as a crime against humanity. Nzabirinda apparently will be completing his prison term in Arusha at the special United Nations Detention Facility (UNDF) without getting a host country to serve his sentence.

After having denied the allegations against him, Nzabirinda ended up pleading guilty in December 2006, admitting to have taken part, during the genocide, at organizing meetings for massacres and to have acted as an "approving spectator" during two murders committed in his vicinity.

The prosecution and defence had agreed to propose to the Chamber a sentence ranging between 5 and 8 years in prison. The Chamber, even if it followed their recommendation, was not held to respect this agreement.

Nzabirinda will be the third ICTR convict to finish serving his sentence.

In March, the former Councillor, Vincent Rutaganira, sentenced to six years in prison by the ICTR, found his freedom after having served the totality of his sentence.

The day following his release, Rutaganira had accused the administration of the ICTR of wanting to drive him out of the house where he was staying at the account of the ICTR while waiting to find a host country.

Rutaganira, according to ICTR sources, is now residing in a Southern Africa country.

Questioned on the issue recently, the ICTR spokesperson, Roland Amoussouga, responded: "He is somewhere, but he [Rutaganira] does not wish that the place be revealed".

The first convict to have finished serving his sentence, Adventist Pastor Elizaphan Ntakirutimana, died from natural causes on 22 January 2007, less than a month after having been released. He had not yet found a host country either.


© Hirondelle News Agency