Arusha, 26 June 2009 (FH) - The trial of four military officers, including the former heads of Rwandan Army and Gendarmerie, finished on Friday at the end of the defendants' final arguments, reports Hirondelle Agency.

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General Augustin Bizimungu was Chief of Staff of Army and General Augustin Ndindiliyimana was Chief of Staff of Gendarmerie at the height of the 1994 genocide.

They have been on trial since September 2004 with the former commander of the reconnaissance battalion, Major François-Nzuwonemeye, and Captain Innocent Sagahutu, who was the head of a squadron of the unit.

According to presiding Judge, Joseph Asoka de Silva, the judgement date will be communicated to the parties later.

On the last day of this ultimate phase of the trial, which began Wednesday with the closing arguments from the prosecutor, it was especially the lawyers of the Major Nzuwonemeye and the Captain Sagahutu who advanced their arguments.

The defendants of two high ranked officers (Generals Bizimungu and Ndindiliyimana) had presented their final arguments on Wednesday and Thursday.

The facts charged against Major Nzuwonenemeye and his former subordinate can be summarized in three points--- the assassination of Prime Minister Agathe Uwilingiyimana and the murder of 10 Belgian peacekeepers on 7 April 1994; massacres and rapes allegedly committed at the Hospital Center of Kigali (CHK) by elements of the reconnaissance battalion; and various murders in Nyamirambo, a district of Kigali.

"None of the key witnesses of the prosecutor pointed Nzuwonemeye or his battalion at the location of the murder of the Prime Minister", argued Charles Takou, the Major's American lawyer.

Takou also denied any involvement of this unit in the murder of the Belgian peacekeepers.

On the same line of defence, Fabien Segatwa, lead counsel for Captain Sagahutu, raised that the prosecution had not specified which member of his client's squadron would have taken part in the attacks at the CHK.

The Burundian lawyer finally reproached the opposing party for not having produced the identity of people who would have been killed by the captain in Nyamirambo.  He described the indictment "as empty of evidence". A few minutes earlier, his assistant, Seydou Doumbia had come very close to an insult by qualifying the allegations of the prosecutor as of "intellectual prostitution".

On Wednesday, Alphonse Van, representative of the prosecution in the trial, had requested the maximum sentence.

"Justice will be rendered only if you sentence each one of them to life in prison", underlined the Ivorian attorney.


© Hirondelle News Agency