Arusha, April 26, 2010 (FH) - Former Rwandan military officer, Lieutenant Idelphonse Hategekimana Monday refused to attend the closing arguments of his defence case before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) on grounds that he was not adequately represented by his lead defence counsel.

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‘'I will not be present during my closing arguments because we [the accused and the counsel] did not prepare the defence together,'' Presiding Judge of Trial Chamber II, Arlette Ramaroson, read in part the protest letter filed by the accused before the bench.

At the beginning of the morning session, the Chamber dismissed Hategekimana's motion of April 19, 2010 demanding the withdrawal of his lead defence counsel, Togolese Ahlonko Dovi, citing the suspect's loss of confidence over his lawyer and lack of communication between them.

However the motion was rejected as the accused had not demonstrated ‘exceptional circumstances' as required by the law, as part of the conditions to effect the counsel's withdrawal.

‘'The accused did not show any complains neither during pre-trial nor during the trial itself about the conduct and the ability of his lead counsel,'' stated the Presiding Judge, insisting that there was no reason to adjourn the closing arguments.

The Chamber ruled that the defence closing arguments would continue and invited the lead counsel Dovi to take the floor. The final presentations were being made in mostly closed-session.

The prosecution concluded its case on May 4, 2009 after presenting 20 witnesses and the defence rested its case on October 7, same year, after fielding the same number of witnesses.

A native of Mugina, in the former prefecture of Gitarama (central Rwanda), Hategekimana has pleaded not guilty to five charges, including genocide and crimes against humanity.

The officer who commanded the small military camp of Ngoma, in Butare ,southern Rwanda, in 1994 is part of the five accused that the ICTR prosecutor, Hassan Bubacar Jallow, sought in vain to transfer to Rwandan courts.

This trial started on March 16, 2009.

Hategekimana is one of the few ICTR accused who did not take witness stand in person to defend himself.


© Hirondelle News Agency