Kigali, 10 February 2009 (FH) - François Xavier Byuma, a famous human rights activist on a re-trial for genocide, called Saturday eleven witnesses before a semi-traditional court sitting in Kigali, the Rwandan capital.

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Sentenced to 19 years in prison, Byuma, also a renowned dramatic author in his country appears in revision before a gacaca court of the East Province which went to Kigali for the hearings.

"I know and I knew Byuma well, as a neighbour. I know that he is a good man", said Marie Mutumwinka, first of the eleven witnesses heard Saturday for the defence.

Byuma and Haruna had disputed over a piece of land after 1994, she explained.

This dispute was confirmed by another witness, Rose Nyirasangwa, who also defended the honour of her former neighbour. "Byuma was not only a good man. To have gone often to his house, I know that he could not even slaughter a chicken", she stated, under an oath.

According to the indictment, the human rights activist is prosecuted for the "attempted murder of Louise Batamuliza, complicity in the assassination of Raymond Kabayiza, erection of road blocks, illegal possession of a firearm and criminal conspiracy".

In regards to the prosecution, the judges read a statement written by Aline, Kabayiza's daughter.

 According to the text, Byuma would have helped to tie up Kabayiza before her death. The only witness for the prosecution heard Saturday, Mrs. Batamuliza affirmed that Byuma had told her, by pointing at the Kabayiza's body which lay in a drain: "I will give you away in marriage to Raymond Kabayiza". Which Byuma vigorously denied. "The persons named Habib, Amiru and Madede admitted to having killed Kabayiza, and were sentenced for that... their testimony is useful for my defence", said Byuma.

After deliberation, the Chamber accepted the request. "The trial will resume on March 7", with the testimony of new witnesses, according to the presiding Judge, Georges Karangwa.

Byuma has been imprisoned at the central prison of Kigali (PCK) since May 2007.  His first trial had caused indignation from the local population and from organizations for defence of human rights.


© Hirondelle News Agency