Arusha, 02 October, 2009 (FH) - The Office of Prosecution of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) Friday said it wants a sentence of 25 years imprisonment be imposed on the former Rwandan military officer, Lt. Col Tharcisse Muvunyi, who is facing a re-trial on a single charge of direct and public incitement to commit genocide in 1994.

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Presenting his oral closing arguments, Nigerian prosecution counsel, Ibunokulu Babajide, told Trial Chamber III presided by Justice Dennis Byron, that the accused actually deserved a life imprisonment, but unfortunately would ago against the directive of the Appeals Chamber, which has decided that it should not exceed 25 years, which was imposed by the lower court.

The Chamber stated clearly in its judgment that if found guilty he should not be given a sentence more than that of the previous one.

On 29 August 2008, the Appeals Chamber cancelled the guilty verdicts as well as the sentence of 25 years of imprisonment  and ordered a new trial for "direct and public incitement to commit genocide", in connection with the speech made by the defendant at  Gikore commercial centre in Butare prefecture, south Rwanda in May 1994.

Ibunokulu argued that Lt. Col Muvunyi went against the oath he took to protect Rwandan citizens as a military officer, but instead he chose to incite them to commit genocide. ‘'This should be punished severely,'' concluded the prosecution.

American lead defence counsel for the accused on his side pleaded that the right verdict for his client should be ‘'not guilty'' on grounds that the prosecution had failed to prove its case beyond reasonable doubts.

He said four prosecution witnesses were genocidaires and their credibility was questionable. The fact that only one witness testified that Muvunyi used Kinyarwanda proverbs to incite killings against Tutsi and that the other one did not even speak about incitement, was a clear indication that the crime in question was not committed.

The re-trial case began on 17 June and it took the prosecutor five days to present six witnesses to support his case whereas the defence rested its case on September 17, after fielding seven witnesses.

According to the prosecution the significance of Muvunyi's speech, was the use of Kinyarwanda proverbs which contained inflammatory language such as referring the Tutsis as ‘'inyenzi'' (cockroaches) or inzoka (snakes) alleging that this kind of language in the speech incited ethnic Hutus to kill Tutsis.

The date of the verdict is yet to be announced.


© Hirondelle News Agency