August 24, 2010 (FH) - Presentation of defence case of former President of then Rwandan ruling party, MRND, Mathieu Ngirumpatse, took off Tuesday before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) with is co-counsel Frederic Weyl seeking his acquittal because, alleging the prosecution case had several shortcomings.

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"Mathieu Ngirumpatse is an innocent man in prison. He made many sacrifices to serve the people in Rwanda. That is why he weeps in his heart about the tragedy," Weyl told Trial Chamber III presided over by Judge Dennis Byron, when presenting opening statement for his client's defence.

In the trial, Ngirumpatse is charged with his party's Vice-President Edouard Karemera for crimes committed by members of their party. The prosecution has indicted them for their superior responsibility as top officials of the party.  Karemera has already completed his defence case.

Weyl described Ngirumpatse a man who had advocated for peace and democracy and was well known in the Rwandan community because of his humanity, dignity and commitments to human life.

"His actions, whether professional or political within the association, cultural or with private life, have been considerate or characterized by symbolism. He respects ones irrespective of their origin, political or religious ends," he argued.

The Tuesday's session was not short of drama. It all started in the afternoon when Weyl informed the Chamber that his client's situation regarding commencing his defence without proper amendment of indictment following the death of their co-accused, Joseph Nzirorera, former MRND Secretary General, had not changed.

Judge Byron quickly intervened, saying the chamber has been satisfied  with the document filed by the prosecution complied with the order, which required them to remove Nzirorera's name from the title and counts in the indictment and delete any reference of his name as an accused.

However, Weyl maintained that the prosecution had simply crossed the name of Nzirorera instead of deleting all allegations involving him in the indictment. He submitted that his client was applying for certification to appeal against the Chamber's decision.

"I respectfully request you to renew our instruction for proper administration of justice. The proceedings should be suspended pending determination of our appeal by the Appeals Chamber," the counsel further petitioned as Ngirumpatse sitting adjacent him was listening to the arguments tentatively.   

The petition by the counsel created more confusion to the extent that Judge Byron sought clarification from him on what proper course was taking. He queried, "do you need assistance of the Chamber?" After Weyl had answered affirmatively, the judge proceeded to ask him, "What is wrong with our decision?"

Weyl responded that there were matters concerning Nzirorera still in the amended indictment, whose evidence could be used to convict his client. He, therefore, informed the Chamber that they were not in position to give defence against evidence of Nzirorera.

Following such argument the Chamber granted the application by Ngirumpatse for certification of appeal on the decision relating to amendments made in the indictment and maintenance of all evidence heard prior the death of Nzirorera. The Chamber, however, refused to postpone the proceeding and ordered the defence to proceed making opening statement.

Hearing continues Wednesday.


© Hirondelle News Agency