Arusha, January 28, 2010 (FH) - The prosecution Thursday called for a maximum sentence of life imprisonment on former Rwandan businessman Yussuf Munyakazi for his alleged role in the 1994 genocide.

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At 75, Munyakazi is the oldest detainee of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) and the father of 13 children. He is charged mainly with having led attacks against Tutsis in the southwestern prefecture of Cyangugu in April 1994.  According to his indictment, Munyakazi was a local leader of the Interahamwe militia which spearheaded the genocide.

‘'Munyakazi willfully participated in the demolitions of three churches at Nyamasheke, Mibilizi and Shangi parishes (former Cyangugu prefecture) where Tutsis who took refuge were killed,' Nigerian prosecutor Segun Jegede told the ICTR.

According to Jegede, two priests and several protected witnesses such as ‘'BWW'' and ‘'BWU'' provided consistent evidence of how the defendant actively participated in the killings.

‘'The prosecution submits that the most appropriate sentence is a concurrent life imprisonment for each count he is found guilty,'' Jegede told the three-bench Chamber presided by Judge Florence Rita Arrey from Cameroon.

The prosecution further claimed that although he had little education, Munyakazi's wealth enabled him to implement the genocide plan.

Members of Munyakazi's family had travelled from Bugarama in southwest Rwanda to attend the hearing, including one of his daughters and a great granddaughter who played with her baby in the public gallery.   

Munyakazi has pleaded not guilty. Lead defence counsel Professor Jwani Mwaikusa of Tanzania asked the Chamber to acquit his client unconditionally, saying that the accused had never been an Interahamwe leader nor participated in their activities as claimed by the prosecution.

According to Judge Array, the judgment can be expected in May.

The defendant was arrested in May 2004 in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) where he lived as an Imam under the name of Mzee Mandevu (meaning the bearded old man in Kiswahili).


© Hirondelle News Agency