Arusha, 24 July 2009 (FH) - The defence of genocide-accused for Rwandan Minister for Planning, Augustin Ngirabatware, has said that it will not be able to start the accused's trial as scheduled in September, this year.

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Briton Peter Herbert, accused's lead counsel, has already indicated in his motion to the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) Chamber II that at the latest he could begin the trial in December or early next year.

The trial was earlier planned for 3 August but was deferred to 23 September.  Ngirabatware is also the son-in-law of the wealthy businessman and on the run, Felicien Kabuga, the alleged financier of the 1994 genocide.

The Registry terminated the contract of the former Counsel, American professor David Thomas, following the accused's lack of confidence in his lawyer.

 Arrested in Germany on 17 September 2007, the former minister has been in the custody of the ICTR since 8 October 2008, whereas his father-in-law is still at large, less than two years to the close of the tribunal.

Accused of crimes of genocide and crimes against humanity, Ngirabatware claimed his innocence during his first initial appearance on 10 October 2008 on the basis of an indictment from 1999.

Following the amendment of the text, a new appearance took place on 10 February, during which he once again pleaded not guilty.

The former minister was accused of having used public funds to finance the activities of the Interahamwe militiamen, the main armed element of the genocide.

Meanwhile, ICTR has scheduled for 31 August the opening of the trial of the former head of the tea authority, Michel Bagaragaza, a close relative of the former Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana.

Bagaragaza is accused of having contributed to create, finance, train and arm the Interahamwe militia, the main armed element of the genocide which resulted, according to the UN, in nearly 800 000 killed, mainly ethnic Tutsis.

In another development, Lieutenant Samuel Imanishimwe, sentenced to 12 years in prison by ICTR for his role in 1994 genocide, will be released from prison on 8 August, after having served his sentence, reports Hirondelle Agency.

Questioned on Imanishimwe's destination after his release, the ICTR spokesperson, Roland Amoussouga, responded: "He [Imanishimwe] will be free and be responsible of his own destiny".

The prisoner is currently being detained in Mali. He will be the fifth convicted to have completed sentence and released.

Arrested in Mombasa, Kenya, on 11 August 1997, Lieutenant Imanishimwe, who commanded a small military camp in south-western Rwanda in 1994, was sentenced to 12 years in prison on 7 July 2006, after being found guilty of crimes against humanity and war crimes.

Meanwhile, a permanent Judge at ICTR Joseph Asoka de Silva, 63, from Sri Lanka has been appointed and sworn in as the 32nd Chief Justice of his country, according to the latest ICTR News Letter.

The Judge was sworn in by the Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa on June 8, 2009.

The United Nations Security Council in its resolution number 1878 of June, 2009 stated clearly that Judge de Silva and another one at the same Tribunal ‘'may work part-time and engage in another judicial occupation or occupations of equivalent independent status in their home countries during the remainder of their terms of office until the completion of the cases which they are assigned...''  


© Hirondelle News Agency