Arusha, 24 August 2009 (FH) - American lawyer William Taylor told the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda ICTR) that the former Rwandan Military Officer, Lt. Col Tharcisse Muvunyi, did not incite people to killing Tutsis in a speech allegedly made at Gikore Commercial Centre, Nyaruhengeri Commune in Butare prefecture, southern Rwanda, as claimed by the prosecution.

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The lawyer, lead defence counsel for the accused, made the remark during his opening address in the re-trial of the former Rwandan officer.

He admitted that Lt. Col Muvunyi was one of the speakers in the pacification meeting held near Gikore centre in May 1994, in the company of two former Butare Governors-- Sylvan Nsabimana and Alphonse Nteziryayo-- both of whom are accused jointly in the so called Butare trial, involving six defendants at ICTR.

Taylor added that Muvunyi's message centered on asking people to provide intelligence information to the authorities as it was the time of war, to respect each other and to unite together to protect themselves and that ‘'nothing outside occurred.''  

His first defence witness, a Rwandan medical doctor living in exile in Congo Brazzaville, Sixbert    Ilyivuze, 43, denied the allegation that the accused incited Hutus to kill Tutsis.

‘'During that meeting, no one incited the people to kill Tutsis. No one spoke about Tutsis,'' the witness told the attentive Trial Chamber III presided by Judge Dennis Byron from St. Kitts and Nevis, who is also the President of the Tribunal.

The witness, who said was among the hundred or so people who attended the meeting, alleged that the defendant rather cautioned the people to wait for the right information before they decided to flee, to avoid jumping into the enemy's zone.

He said the defendant also warned that the enemy, Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), could launch an attack against the region.

According to the prosecutor, the speech of the accused was interpreted by Hutu audience as a call to exterminate the few Tutsis still alive in the area.

The witness was later cross-examined by the prosecution.

Seven witnesses are expected to testify in defence of Lt. Col Muvunyi. The new trial began on 17 June and the prosecutor rested his case five days later after having called six witnesses.

The former officer had been sentenced to 25 years in prison on 12 September 2006 after being found guilty of "genocide, direct and public incitement to commit genocide and other inhuman acts".

On 29 August 2008, the Appeals Chamber cancelled the guilty verdicts as well as the sentence, and had ordered a new trial for "direct and public incitement to commit genocide", related to the Gikore speech.


© Hirondelle News Agency