Kigali, February 15, 2010 (FH) - An 88-year old male nurse, Barnabé Rwanyabugigira, and widely known traditional healer, Epaphrodite Nzeyimana, appeared on Sunday before two different Appeal Gacaca courts in Kamonyi district (Central Rwanda).

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A the time of the genocide, Barnabé Rwanyabugigira was responsible of the pharmacy of Remera-Rukoma Hospital, owned by the Presbyterian Church in Rwanda (PCR).

At the end of his initial trial, he was sentenced to 30 years in jail having been found guilty of "complicity in the murder of his colleague Marie Claire Umugiraneza and of other Tutsis who had sought refuge [in the pharmacy] in 1994".

On Sunday, he claimed again his innocence before the Appeal judges. "Militiamen beat me up and I lost conscience. When I woke up, I was told they had killed people", he told the court.

However, one of the convicted murderers Marie Claire Umugiraneza, who took the stand as a witness, declared that the old man had asked the victim to "take off the hospital gown before being killed".

The trial will resume on February 20 for the hearing of defence witnesses.

Also on Sunday, another Gacaca court in the same district announced the reopening of hearings in Epaphrodite Nzeyimana's case.

The case had been closed on February 7 but, since, the healer has convinced the judges to allow new defence witnesses to appear.

Nzeyimana is charged with "organizing the genocide and meetings inciting to commit genocide, and complicity in murders in Gatagara", a village in Kamonyi district.

He was acquitted last year in his initial trial but the plaintiffs filed an appeal.

Nzeyimana disappeared from his home after the genocide and was spotted years later in Muhanga district (South of Rwanda) where he lived under a new name - Isodore Mahoro - and practicing a new profession, as traditional healer.

He became overnight famous, in 2005, when he publicly announced he had found a remedy against AIDS. Sick people from all over Rwanda flocked to his compound thus turned into a crowded make-shift hospital.

The judgment in this case is due to be delivered next Sunday.

The Gacaca courts, adapted from a form of Rwandan traditional justice, are tasked with trying suspected perpetrators of the 1994 Rwandan genocide which left some 800,000 people dead, according to the UN.   These village courts, whose judges are elected from the community, can hand down sentences up to life imprisonment, which is now the maximum penalty in Rwanda. They have so far tried more than a million people.


  © Hirondelle News Agency