Arusha, 17 March 2009 (FH) - French lawyer, Aicha Conde, the first defence witness in the trial of Rwandan lawyer accused of contempt of court, Leonidas Nshogoza, denied allegations that she colluded with the accused to present false claims of fees and expenses he allegedly spent during his official missions.

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Conde was lead defence counsel in the trial of former Rwandan minister for Education and Culture, Jean de Dieu Kamuhanda, already convicted for genocide and sentenced to life imprisonment by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) in 2004.Nshogoza was defence counsel in the same trial.

Earlier, during cross-examination by senior prosecution attorney, Richard Karegyesa, witness Conde admitted to have signed a claim sheet certifying information given by her investigator (now accused person) was true, complete and correct but only to discover that the missions listed in the claim forms as being carried out between August 1 to 30, 2003 did not even exist.

The witness told the Chamber that her defence team did not carry any mission prior to January 22, 2004 and that the dates of the missions as field in by the accused and signed with his signature was erroneous.

She elaborated that she signed the work sheet before leaving for France sometimes in August 2004 in a good faith so that the accused whom she claimed was an "excellent investigator she has ever come across" would not get problems of getting his re-imbursements while she was away.

That information did not convince Prosecutor Karegyesa who straight asked her: ‘' Did you colluded with your investigator to present false claims?'' The witness quickly responded and insisted: ‘' At the time I signed, there was no attachment of work sheet...I signed the cover page because I did not want to delay his payments while I am away.''

During her testimony President of Trial Chamber III, Judge Khalida Khan from Pakistan and her colleague Kenyan Lee Muthoga had constantly reminded the witness to answer questions in a straight-forward manner as she was an experienced lawyer, "instead of beating around the bush."

Other issues which the witness denied included Nshogoza's possibility of meeting protected witness GAA who is at the centre of this trial before the judgment of Kamuhanda contrary to the rules of procedures of the Tribunal and persuading another protected witness namely GEX to recant his statements.

The witness concluded her testimony Tuesday and the trial continues on Wednesday.   

Nshogoza has been accused of having tried to subvert court of justice in the trial of Kamuhanda.

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