Arusha, 31 August 2009 (FH) - Professor Jwani Mwaikusa, Lead Counsel for the oldest detainee at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) Monday said his client, Yusuf Munyakazi, 74, facing charges of genocide and crimes against humanity did not hold any leadership position in neither the then Rwandan MRND ruling party nor its youth wing characterized by militia known as Interahamwe in 1994.

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Presenting his oral  remarks at the beginning of the defence case, Prof. Mwaikusa explained that his client whose formal education could not even go beyond two years of primary school was ‘'functionally illiterate'' and could not have held such leadership posts.

‘'He was not a leader of MRND and was not a leader of its youth wing that time as he was already around 60 years old,'' he elaborated, adding he was ‘'not a killer.

According to Prof. Mwaikusa, the defendant did nothing at the three churches mentioned in the indictment including that of Mibilizi, Shangi and Nyamasheke parishes in Cyangugu prefecture, south Rwanda where the prosecution alleged that the accused toured in 1994 to incite killings of Tutsis.

The first protected defence witness code-named NKM to shield his identity for security reasons despite admitting that the accused was a member of MRND like other citizens in his locality in Bugarama commune he said ‘' there was no visible relationship between Munyakazi and the youth wing of MRND party.

Led in his examination in-chief by the defendant’s co-counsel, Barnabe Nekuie from Cameroon the witness also denied that Munyakazi carried any weapons during April July, 1994 Rwandan genocide or got involved in any unusual activities during the time in question.

The witness told the attentive Trial Chamber presided by Judge Florence Rita Array from Cameroon that the accused opposed the killings of a Tutsis known as Esidras Musengayire  and for that reason the young Interahamwe killed an adopted son of Munyakazi only known as Shema as a revenge to his resistance on April 7, 1994.

The prosecution took over to cross examine the witness. The case continues Tuesday.

Where as the prosecution rested its case on June 4, after fielding 12 witnesses to support accusations against the defendant the defence is expected to present over 20 witness though only 10 were mentioned before the Tribunal so far.

Prosecuted for genocide, complicity in the genocide and extermination, Munyakazi, has pleaded his innocence.

Munyakazi was arrested in May 2004 in east of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) where he pretended to be an Imam, under the name of Mzee Mandevu (literally, the bearded old man in Kiswahili).

The trial began on 22 April, 2009.


© Hirondelle News Agency