Arusha, May 31, 2010 (FH) - Vincent Courcelle-Labrousse, French defence Counsel at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) Monday expressed his support for the efforts being made by lawyers to secure immediate release of American Professor Peter Erlinder, now in custody in Rwanda for accusations related to negation of 1994 genocide.

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The American lawyer arrested last Friday had been in Kigali for a week to be part of the opposition leader Victoire Ingabire's defence team. The lady, who is an opponent to Paul Kagame's regime, is charged for negation of genocide, collaboration to a terrorist organization and spreading ethnic division.

‘'We support solidarity of all lawyers who are working for the release of Peter Erlinder,'' the French lawyer told the Chamber at the beginning of the session in the defence case of Callixte Nzabonimana, former Rwandan Youth Minister in 1994, now facing charges of genocide at the UN Tribunal. Courcelle-Labrousse is the accused lead defence counsel.

He alleged that the Professor was arrested for a lecture he made in a conference in Brussels recently and for his publications on genocide and not for what he did in Rwanda of late. ‘'He did not utter any words in Rwanda which amounts to the charges leveled against him'' he told the Chamber presided by Ugandan Judge Solomy Balungi Bossa.

The counsel also said that he was himself detained in Rwanda in 2008 together with his investigator for 12 hours. ‘'Our investigator had to flee Rwanda even if the trial was not yet over. We have an impression that our team is being monitored or tailed in Rwanda,'' he lamented.   

Responding to Mr. Courcelle-Labrousse, ICTR Senior Trial Attorney Kenyan Paul Ng'arua  blamed the defence team for using the event to narrate their own story.

‘'Counsel for Nzabonimana had not yet filed any notice that he had been harassed by Rwandan authorities,'' he said adding ‘'It is a crime in Rwanda to deny genocide just as is the case in Germany for any one who denies holocaust. Who ever does that will be arrested regardless of being a lawyer, a doctor or anybody.''

Shortly before the hearing commenced Presiding Judge Bossa said ‘'We note submission provided by both parties on the arrest.'' She also asked the defence to immediately inform the Chamber in case they face any problem in the course of their trial.

The Chamber then continued with the hearing of cross examination of a defence witness and former Rwandan mayor, Jean Marie Vianney Mporanzi.

Professor Erlinder is President of the ICTR Defence lawyers association in Arusha and defence counsel for former Rwandan major Aloys Ntabakuze, who has been sentenced to life imprisonment by ICTR and is now waiting for his appeal hearing.


© Hirondelle News Agency