Arusha, 31 October 2008 (FH) - The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) will render its verdicts in December in the trials of the singer Simon Bikindi and Protais Zigiranyirazo, brother-in-law of the former President Juvénal Habyarimana.

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The verdict will be rendered on 2 December for Bikindi, according to a source close to the case, and on 18 December for Zigiranyirazo, according to an ICTR official press release. In May, the prosecutor had requested life imprisonment in the two cases while the defendants have asked for acquittals.

First artist indicted by the ICTR, Bikindi is charged with six counts: agreement in order to commit genocide, genocide, complicity in genocide, direct and public incitement to commit genocide, murder and persecution.

At the heart of the trial are three songs in Kinyarwanda performed in divergent ways by the prosecution and the defence. The prosecution alleges that they are calls for the unity of Hutus in order to get rid of Tutsis; while Bikindi affirms to sing only about peace and democracy in his accused works.

During the trial, each party called his Rwandan expert to support his interpretation of the three songs whose texts are sometimes over analyzed.

Bikindi is, also, accused of having taken part in massacres of Tutsis in his native prefecture of Gisenyi ,northern Rwanda.

The singer-songwriter was arrested in the Netherlands in July 2001 and his trial opened in September 2006.

Known as "Mr. Z", Zigiranyirazo is accused of agreement in order to commit genocide, genocide, complicity in genocide, murder and extermination.

According to the prosecution, he, among other crimes, took part in the night of 6 April 1994, at the presidential residence, in drawing a list of people to be killed in order to avenge the assassination of his brother-in-law, President Habyarimana.

For his part, the defendant affirms to have arrived at his sister's place only on 8 April 1994

Zigiranyirazo was Governor of Ruhengeri, northern Rwanda, before resigning in 1989, to pursue studies in Canada, from where he was expelled in 1990.

In 1994, he no longer occupied an official position but the prosecution alleges that he had kept, because of his membership to the presidential family, influence on the soldiers, gendarmes and Interahamwe militiamen, the main armed wings of the genocide.

He was arrested in Brussels in July 2001 and his trial began in October 2005.

Bikindi and Zigiranyirazo were tried by an ICTR Chamber presided by Judge Monica Weinberg de Rocca, whose mandate ends at the end of this year.

These verdicts will be the second and third to be rendered this year by the ICTR against the alleged leaders of the genocide.

Only the former magistrate Simeon Nshamihigo received his verdict this year, on 24 September. To date, this verdict has not yet been published nor communicated to the parties.

Since its creation in 1994, the ICTR has rendered 36 verdicts.

The president of the Tribunal, Dennis Byron, announced at the beginning of the month to the United Nations that the verdicts concerning 38 people would be rendered in the next 14 months.


© Hirondelle News Agency