Arusha, 14 January 2009 (FH) - The  re-trial of Lieutenant Colonel Tharcisse Muvunyi, which should have started Monday before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), has been postponed sine die because of absence of the defence lawyers, reports Hirondelle Agency.

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Muvunyi is defended by the Americans William Taylor and Abbe Jolles.

Judge Dennis Byron, who sat alone Wednesday for this short hearing, asked the Registry, the court's administrative body, to impose necessary sanctions against the lawyers, qualifying their behaviour as a clear demonstration of a lack of respect toward the Chamber.

He indicated that the proceedings may start on 9 February, but stated that the final date would be announced to the parties at a convenient time.

Muvunyi, who had been sentenced to 25 years in prison in first instance trial, will be retried for direct and public incitement to commit genocide, relative to a speech which he would have made in May 1994 at the commerce center of Gikore, in the former prefecture of Butare, southern Rwanda.

The Appeals Chamber ordered re-trial on 29 August 2008 after having cancelled the guilty pleas which had been rendered against the former army officer by his first judges.

Pleading his case and that of his lawyers, the defendant insisted at Wednesday's hearing on his right to be assisted by a council and explained that Taylor and Jolles had clearly informed the Chamber that they had other professional engagements in their country from mid-January to mid-March.

Judge Byron underlined in his decision that the lawyers had been duly informed that the trial was going to begin on 12 January and that they had the duty to give the priority over their other national engagements.

 The new trial is expected to last two weeks of hearing.

The beginning of Muvunyi's new trial was to mark the entry of a very legally packed year.

Ten defendants will begin their trials this year, added to the 22 whose cases are in the deliberation or in presentation phases.

After this sine die postponement, the courtrooms will only reopen on 26 January with the beginning of the trial of Lieutenant Ildephonse Hategekimana and the recovery of that of the former cabinet director of the ministry of the interior, Callixte Kalimanzira.


© Hirondelle News Agency