Arusha, January 18, 2010 (FH) - Former Rwandan businessman Gaspard Kanyarukiga is an innocent person and did not commit any crimes during the 1994 killings, lead defence counsel told the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) Monday at the commencement of the defence case.

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"He did not act or could have acted as a leader during the 1994 killings,'' David Jacobs asserted before the attentive court.

In the opening statement, the counsel added that Kanyarukiga was not a member of the communal bureau and he was not invited nor he attended the meetings.

He added: ‘'You have heard concocted stories of Kanyarukiga as one of  Nyange leaders, as authority in Nyange who ordered people to commit such heinous crimes...We'll be contradicting the prosecution evidence to acquit this good man.''

The counsel said that the accused innocently ran his business in Nyange but never lived there.

The defence will Tuesday begin to present their witnesses. At least five witnesses are expected during this session.

During the start of the trial on August 31, the prosecution described Kanyarukiga as having committed one of worst crimes when he directed demolition of a church in Nyange, western Rwanda, during the height of 1994 killings.

The fleeing refugees had sought refuge at the Church.

"When all efforts to exterminate the Tutsis in huge numbers failed, the accused and his co-perpetrators ordered the demolition of the church,'' Prosecutor Holo Makwaia alleged before the UN-Court. According to the indictment, Kanyarukiga is being prosecuted for conspiracy to commit genocide, complicity in genocide and extermination. He has pleaded not guilty.

According to the prosecutor, the driver of the bulldozer had initially refused to demolish the church, but finally complied when they explained to him that the Hutus were strong enough to build another one.

After the destruction of the church, Kanyarukiga and others rejoiced by drinking beers, adds the indictment. The prosecution completed its case on September 17 after fielding eleven witnesses.

The same killings at Nyange parish led to the life sentence for former parish priest of the church, Athanase Seromba.

Kanyarukiga was arrested in South Africa on 16 July 2004 and transferred to Arusha three days later. 


© Hirondelle News Agency