Arusha, November 06, 2009 (FH) - The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) Thursday sentenced to eight years jail the former head of the Rwandan Tea Authority, Michel Bagaragaza, for the killings of ethnic Tutsis during the 1994 genocide.

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‘The Court sentences Michel Bagaragaza to a prison term of eight years with credit for the time he has spent in detention since his arrest on 15 August 2005 and will spend in detention until he can start serving his sentence,'' read out three-bench presiding judge Vagn Joensen.

The judge also said that the ruling took into consideration the mitigating circumstances of the accused, including his voluntary surrender, guilty plea, co-operation with the Tribunal and remorse for his actions. The Judge also noted that the defence presented very credible evidence in demonstrating that Bagaragaza did not discriminate ethnic Tutsis.

Among other crimes, Bagaragaza (64) admitted having used in April 1994 the tea factory of Rubaya, Gisenyi Prefecture, northern Rwanda to stock arms for use against Tutsis.

Meanwhile, the prosecution has urged maximum life imprisonment for the former Rwandan military officer, Lt. Col Ephrem Setako, if convicted for his participation in the 1994 genocide.

The former head of Legal Affairs in the Ministry of Defence is facing six charges, including genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. He has denied the charges.

‘'I propose a maximum sentence of life imprisonment ,''  said Wednesday Prosecution counsel Ifeoma Ojemeni Okali when responding to presiding Judge Eric Mose, who wanted to know the prosecutor's punishment proposition.

She said the gravity of the offences charged must be proportionate with the sentence to be rendered.

Okali said Setako was duty bound to uphold the sanctity of human life by taking right steps to ensure that civilian population was protected, especially the Tutsis,  who were targeted for the slaughter.  The case concluded on Friday and is awaiting judgement. The prosecution fielded 20 witnesses whereas the defence called 35 witnesses.

In another development, 13 prosecution witnesses have so far testified in the trial of Jean-Baptiste Gatete, former Rwandan Director in the Ministry of Family and Women Affairs. The trial has been adjourned to Monday. The defendant is facing charges of genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide, incitement to commit genocide and crimes against humanity to which he claimed innocence.

The prosecution case started on October 20.

Meanwhile, eight witnesses have so far testified for the defence of genocide-accused Joseph Nzirorera, former Secretary General of then Rwanda's presidential party (MRND). The defence has planned to field 55 witnesses. The trial continues on Monday.

Other accused persons in the joint trial include the former President of MRND, Mathieu Ngirumpatse, and his Vice President, Edouard Karemera. The latter has already concluded his defence case.

Nzirorera and his two co-defendants are charged mainly with crimes committed by members of their party. The Prosecution has indicted them for their command responsibility as top officials of the MRND, the party then in power under President Juvenal Habyarimana.


© Hirondelle News Agency