Arusha, 2 October, 2009 (FH) - Former Mayor of Kivumu, western Rwanda, Gregoire Ndahimana, Monday pleaded not guilty to four counts of genocide and crimes against humanity before the Arusha-based International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), reports Hirondelle Agency.

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Making his initial appearance since being transferred from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) on 21 September before presiding judge Rashida Khan, Ndahimana responded ‘'Not Guilty'' to all four counts read out to him.

The Judge has ordered the Registry to fix a date for the trial's hearing.

Ndahimana was arrested in North Kivu, eastern DRC.

The accused is in the list of 13 fugitives for whom the United States government has offered a bounty of $5 millions for any information leading to their arrests.

In another development, the ICTR Appeals Chamber this week heard three different appeals of convicted persons.

The appeals heard were of Protais Zigiranyirazo, former brother-in-law of Rwandan President Juvenal Habayrimana; Simeon Nshamihigo, former Deputy Prosecutor of Cyangugu; and Simon Bikindi, former top Rwandan singer.  The judges have yet to set the date for the delivery of judgements.

Meanwhile, an Investigator with ICTR), Andre Delvaux, Wednesday completed his six-day testimony before the UN court in the trial of the former  Rwandan Minister for Planning, Augustin Ngirabatware, who has been accused of having  spread ‘'Gospel of genocide'' during the bloody slaughter of 1994.

The investigator, who was the first prosecution witnessed, mainly pointed to sketch plans of the accused in his involvement in alleged killings at road blocks and different massacre sites.

The investigator also demonstrated how the accused distributed weapons to kill the ethnic Tutsis and his involvement by inciting hate speeches. He also told how the former minister allegedly diverted development funds to purchase weapons for Interahamwe.

During the opening day on 23 September, lead attorney, Wallace Kapaya, affirmed that the former minister had held "several meetings" in his native region of Gisenyi, north-western Rwanda, in 1994 "to spread the Gospel of genocide".

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

Second prosecution witness, dubbed ‘'ANAF'' to protect her identity, began her testimony Tuesday afternoon.

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, has pleaded not guilty.  Kabuga is the high-profiled fugitive still on the run.

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

The 22nd Plenary session of the ICTR judges Thursday adopted a new rule of preservation of evidence and testimonies of witnesses of the 1994 genocide.

The new Rule 71 bis   of preservation of evidence by the special deposition aims at securing evidence relating to an indictment to be available for a future trial. Rule 71 bis applies to a situation where the accused is not before the Tribunal while the evidence is being heard.

‘Many of these witnesses of the 1994 genocide were either aging or dying...this rule will help the Tribunal to collect all possible evidence from them and be used when the suspects are arrested,'' explained a source to Hirondelle.

At least 12 genocide suspects are on the run, including the high-profiled Felician Kabuga, who is accused of having financed the 1994 slaughter.


© Hirondelle News Agency