Arusha, 9 February 2009 (FH)-The Prosecutor of International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) Monday said that a Rwandan lawyer, Leonidas Nshogoza, accused of contempt of UN court, deserved severe punishment because he allegedly tried to pervert course of justice in a genocide case by bribing and taking false statements from protected prosecution witnesses.

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"These are serious charges, as the accused interfered with this international Tribunal's administration of justice...the offences are serious, first when assessed against the backdrop of the mandate of the Tribunal, secondly when one considers the profession of the accused and his relationship with the Tribunal,'' stressed Senior Trial Attorney, Paul Ng'arua, in an opening statement on behalf of the Prosecutor, Hassan Jallow.

Nshogoza has been accused of having tried to subvert court of justice in the trial of a former Rwandan Minister for Culture and Education, Jean de Dieu Kamuhanda, who was sentenced to imprisonment for remainder of his life in 2004 and a year later it was re-confirmed by the UN Appeals Court.

Ng'arua claimed before the three-bench Chamber, presided by Judge Khalida Khan of Pakistan, that the accused was a relative of Kamuhanda. "Kamuhanda's wife is the accused's cousin. It was towards the end of the trial and during the preparation of Kamuhanda's appeal that the accused committed the offences," he said, adding that the targeted witnesses --only known by code names to protect their identities-- were GAA, GAF, GEI, GEX and SP-004, among others.

Citing an example, Ng'arua said that the accused  deliberately manipulated, induced and promised a bribe reward of not less than 1,000,000 Rwanda Francs( about $2,000) for GAA to give false testimony...we'll prove all these before the court... The accused's acts and conduct are so odious that they deserve punishment," he emphasized.

Later, a protected witness, GAF, began his testimony, by alleging that he was approached by Kamuhanda's investigators several times to change his statement. He claimed that he was told that Nshogoza would do the necessary preparation of concocting a false statement. The trial continues.

The commencement of the trial was delayed following a tug-of-war between the prosecution and the defence on an appropriate starting date.

On October 30, 2008, prosecution said that they were ready to proceed with the case on November 23, as it was originally proposed by the Chamber, but the defence rejected it.

The accused's Canadian lawyer, Allison Turner, said she needed more time for the trial's preparation. She expects to field between 25 and 45 defence witnesses and needed more time to locate and interview them. The other reason she claimed was the fact that the prosecution had not fulfilled its obligation to release all the exculpatory evidence materials as required by the statute of the ICTR.

At ICTR, a person convicted of contempt of court faces a maximum sentence of five years or a fine of US $ 10,000 or both.

The first victim of this offence was a protected prosecution witness dubbed "GAA" who was sentenced to nine months imprisonment in December 2007 after being found guilty of contempt of court by the UN Tribunal.


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