Arusha, 16 March 2009 (FH) - After a week long legal battle, at last the defence case of the Rwandan lawyer, Leonidas Nshogoza, charged with contempt of court at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), commenced Monday.

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The case scheduled to begin last Monday failed following a number of reasons, including failure of the accused's lead Defence Counsel, Canadian Allison Turner, to obey the court order to reduce the number of defence witnesses from 22 to 10 and for her misconduct during court proceedings.

Trial Chamber III under the leadership of Judge Khalida Khan of Pakistan was compelled to adjourn the case indefinitely and imposed a fine of 5,000 US dollars to Counsel Turner for such disobedience.

Before making her opening remarks, the Chamber ordered Counsel Turner to submit a written apology for the misconduct by Tuesday and directed her to present a list of her ten witnesses as directed earlier.

Despite the fact that Counsel Turner made an early oral apology before the bench, she also asked the Chamber to set aside its orders and reconsider its decision of which she was told to file the same in a written form.

During her opening remarks she maintained that her client was innocent and she would bring several witnesses to prove her case, including the lead counsel in the case of ex-Rwandan minister for Education and Culture, Jean de Dieu Kamuhanda, French Aicha Conde and the defendant himself.

Nshogoza has been accused of having tried to subvert court of justice in the trial of Kamuhanda, who is now serving life imprisonment after he was convicted for genocide in 2004.

The defendant is alleged to have tried to bribe prosecution witnesses to retract their statements in favor of Kamuhanda whose trial by then employed the accused as its investigator.

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.


© Hirondelle News Agency