Arusha, 14 September, 2009 (FH) - Trial Chamber III of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) Monday ruled that the defence team of the former Rwanda Military Officer, Lt. Col Tharcisse Muvunyi, should wrap up its case not later than Friday, reports Hirondelle Agency.

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‘'We will sit on Friday (this week) for the purpose of closing the defence case,'' stressed presiding Judge Dennis Byron, who is also the President of ICTR.

Muvunyi's case is the first in the Tribunal's 14-year-history to be re-tried.

Earlier, the Chamber had expected to hear the last seventh defence witness, code-named ‘'MO99'' to protect his identity, but failed to show up in the courtroom on Monday.

American lead defence counsel, William Taylor, told the Chamber that he had desperately tried to communicate with the witness via his email and telephone but in vain. In their last communication, the witness had informed the counsel that he was away on his honeymoon and that he would return to Rwanda by August 11, but since then he has not heard anything.

A representative of the Witness and Victims Support Section (WVSS), Charles Kalumo, added that the last call he made of the witness was 15 minutes before he entered the court room on Monday  but there was no response from ‘'MO99''.

Chamber also denied Counsel Taylor's oral application to be allocated more time to locate the witness whom he termed as'' very important for the defence of his client''.

However, Judge Byron, directed that if the witness showed up, he would be heard on Thursday or Friday this week, short of which the case would be closed.

The Chamber has scheduled for closing and written briefs for September 23 and oral arguments on October 2 for both parties .

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

Muvunyi was 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 ICTR Appeals Chamber cancelled the guilty verdicts and the sentence and ordered a new re-trial  relating to one charge  of "direct and public incitement to commit genocide", in connection with the speech allegedly made at the Gikore Commercial Centre in Butare, southern Rwanda in May 1994.


© Hirondelle News Agency