Arusha, June 16, 2010 (FH) - The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) requested on Tuesday Rwanda to release without delay American lawyer Peter Erlinder, who has been detained in Rwanda since May 28 for « negation of genocide ».

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Peter Erlinder is Major Aloys Ntabakuze's Lead Defence Counsel at the the ICTR. The former officer has been sentenced to life in jail in his first trial and his now awaiting his appeal.

ICTR states that despite Rwanda's assertions, the American lawyer is partly charged for statements made before the ICTR during Ntabakuze's trial.

"The Office of Legal Affairs advised the ICTR to formally assert immunity for Professor Erlinder without delay and request his immediate release", writes the ICTR Registrar in an official note in English sent on Tuesday to the Rwandan Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

"The ICTR hereby notifies the Rwandan authorities that Professor Erlinder enjoys immunity and requests therefore, his immediate release accordingly", also reads the note.

Peter Erlinder was in Rwanda to be part of the defence team of Victoire Ingabire, an opponent to Paul Kagame's regime who has been charged of negation of the genocide.

On June 7,  Erlinder was refused bail by a judge from Gasabo's intermediate court in Kigali. Hirondelle News agency got a copy of the ruling which makes clear references to Erlinder's work at the ICTR.

"The prosecution made specific references to words and statements Erlinder made in his case before the ICTR.", reads the ICTR official note to Rwanda.

"The charging documents filed by the prosecutor are clear and have nothing to do with Erlinder's work at the ICTR. The reference by the magistrate was an error that has nothing close to the substantive content of the publications for which Erlinder is charged", Rwanda Prosecutor General Martin Ngoga told Hirondelle News Agency on Wednesday.

"This is one of the grounds of Erlinder's appeal before the High court which will deliberate upon" on Thursday. "We will further inform the Registrar of the ICTR for better understanding and avoidance of rushed conclusions" added Martin Ngoga.


© Hirondelle News Agency