Arusha, 27 August 2009 (FH) - The defence of Lieutenant Colonel Tharcisse Muvunyi, on trial before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), was suspended on Thursday until 14 September, the date on which will be heard the seventh and last defence witness.

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Accused of direct and public incitement to commit genocide, Muvunyi, started his defence case on Monday.

The Chamber had given him a week for the presentation of his case but the last witness could not be available.

The first to be re-tried at the ICTR, the officer, 56, is answering to charges related to a speech that he would have made one afternoon towards the end of May 1994 in the commerce center of Gikore, in the Nyaruhengeri commune, in the prefecture of Butare ,southern Rwanda.

According to the prosecutor, the message was interpreted by the audience as a call to exterminate the few Tutsis still alive in this region at that time.

In his opening statement on Monday, William Taylor, Muvunyi's lead counsel, defended all the speeches made during the meeting. "There is no evidence that something extraordinary occurred during this meeting", stated the American lawyer.

The new trial began on 17 June and the prosecutor rested his case five days later after having called six witnesses.

The lieutenant colonel had been sentenced to 25 years imprisonment 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 ordered a new trial for "direct and public incitement to commit genocide", in connection with the speech in Gikore.


© Hirondelle News Agency