Arusha, 23 September 2009 (FH) - The former  Rwandan Minister for Planning, Augustin Ngirabatware, was accused on Wednesday, at the opening of his trial at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), of having spread "the gospel of the genocide".

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Accused of conspiracy to commit genocide, genocide, direct and public incitement to commit genocide, and crimes against humanity, Ngirabatware, who is also the son-in-law of the businessman Felicien Kabuga, often presented as the financier of the 1994 massacres in Rwanda, has pleaded not guilty.

In his opening statement, Wallace Kapaya, from the office of the prosecutor, affirmed that the former minister had held "several meetings" in his native region of Gisenyi, northern Rwanda, in 1994 "to spread the Gospel of the genocide".

Kapaya also accused the former minister of having distributed weapons to the Interahamwe militiamen, in the Nyamyumba commune, from where he hails.

He also stated that Ngirabatware had misused his portfolio to divert to the benefit of the party which was then in power, the National Republican Movement for Democracy and Development (MRND), funds coming from various donors.

This money was useful, later, according to Kapaya, it was directed for the purchase of weapons for the Interahamwe militiamen, the main armed faction of the genocide.

"He used his connections, his political power and his level of education" in the framework of a "joint criminal enterprise" aiming at destroying all or part of the Tutsis as such, alleged the Tanzanian attorney.

The defendant was "an essential link of this joint criminal enterprise", underlined Kapaya before calling the first prosecution witness.

The beginning of the trial had been deferred several times.

Arrested in Germany on 17 September 2007, the former minister has been in the custody of the ICTR since 8 October 2008.

Wealthy Kabuga, whose allegedly runs businesses in Kenya, is still at large.

A doctor of economic sciences from the University of Freiburg (Switzerland), Ngirabatware was, in his country, a professor at the National University of Rwanda (1986-1994), then minister of planning (1990-1994).

After his departure into exile in July 1994, he worked in various research institutes in Gabon and in France.


© Hirondelle News Agency