Arusha, 20 October 2008 (FH) - Captain Innocent Sagahutu, prosecuted for crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), hopes to "restore his honour", stated Monday at a hearing his lawyer, Fabien Segatwa.

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"I hope that the Chamber will restore Captain Innocent Sagahutu's honour and dignity", stressed the Burundian lawyer at the end of his statement marking the beginning of the defence case.

Segatwa denied all the allegations against the Captain, whom he introduced as "a brave officer" who was appreciated by his leaders and his subordinates.

Hutu and Tutsi witnesses will come and testify that they benefited from his assistance during the genocide from April to July 1994, the lawyer affirmed, stressing that the defendant "was the terror and the heel of wrongdoers of all sides".

Neither him, nor his men took part in the death of the Prime Minister (Agathe Uwilingiyimana) or of the (ten) Belgian peacekeepers killed on 7 April 1994 by elements of the Rwandan army, the lawyer added.

According to Segatwa, it iwas rather the Canadian Commander of the UN force present at the time in Rwanda, General Roméo Dallaire, who should answer to non-assistance to the Belgian soldiers. "Dallaire was afraid to stop and help his soldiers whom he saw in danger of death (...) It is him who should be prosecuted", claimed the Burundian lawyer.

Segatwa, also, denied that his client ever exerted the functions of second in command of the reconnaissance battalion, as the prosecutor alleges.

The lawyer stressed that the Captain ordered the "A squadron" of this elite unit which was under the leadership of Major François-Xavier Nzuwonemeye, also on trial in this case which also involves the former heads of the army and the gendarmerie, General Augustin Bizimungu and General Augustin Ndindiliyimana.

The last to call his witnesses in this trial that opened in September 2004, Sagahutu was arrested in Denmark in February 2000.

After Segatwa's opening statement, the Chamber presided by Judge Joseph Asoka de Silva, heard a witness who testified via satellite from a European country. According to sources close to the case, it would have been a French officer called in defence of General Augustin Ndindiliyimana.

The trial continues Tuesday. On Wednesday, according to a lawyer, the former Belgian Ambassador to Rwanda, Johan Swinnen, was expected to testify for the defence of Ndindiliyimana.


© Hirondelle News Agency