Arusha, 8 January 2009 (FH) - Genocide-accused Lieutenant Colonel Tharcisse Muvunyi's lead counsel, William Taylor, has opposed to prosecution summoning new witnesses when the defendant's re-trial, as ordered by the UN Appeals court, opens on Monday before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), reports Hirondelle Agency.

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On 29 August 2008, the Appeals Chamber cancelled all the guilty verdicts which had been rendered against the former Rwandan Army Officer in the first instance trial and directed a new trial for the accused for only one count of direct and public incitement to commit genocide in 1994.

Muvunyi will be re-tried only in connection with alleged remarks which he made at a meeting at the Gikore Commerce Center, Butare, southern Rwanda, in May 1994.

In a motion posted on the ICTR website, the defence team of Muvunyi observed that the Prosecutor has intended to call six witnesses whereas in the first trial he had called only two of them in connection with the Gikore speech.

Taylor considers that "allowing the prosecutor to present additional evidence is improper".

"Allowing these testimonies would violate both the accused's right to a fair trial and the Appeals Chamber judgment", pointed out the American lawyer in his motion, which the Chamber has yet to respond.

Among four new potential witnesses is Rwandan linguist, Evariste Ntakirutimana, whom the prosecutor intends to call to the stand to help the judges understand remarks made by accused Muvunyi in Kinyarwanda language in the Gikore speech.

According to the Chamber's schedule, the re-trial was expected to last about two weeks.

If found guilty, Muvunyi cannot still, according to the ruling of the Appeals Chamber, be sentenced to more than 25 years in prison, the sentence which was inflicted to him in the first trial.

Muvunyi, who was stationed during the genocide at the School for Non-Commissioned Officers of Butare (ESO), was convicted on 12 September 2006 of genocide, direct and public incitement to commit genocide and other inhuman acts.

By ordering a new trial, mainly due to defective indictment, the Appeals Chamber has created a precedent in the Tribunal's 14-year history.


© Hirondelle News Agency