Kanyarukiga-65- has pleaded not guilty to charges of genocide, complicity in genocide, as alternative count, conspiracy to commit genocide and extermination as crime against humanity.
He was specifically accused of taking an active part in organizing and ordering killings and the demolition of Nyange Church in his native commune of Kivumu in Kibuye prefecture (western Rwanda) where about 2,000 Tutsi refugees hosted in the church were killed.
Kanyarukiga is not the only Rwandan linked with the massacre at the Nyange church. Others are parish priest Athanase Seromba, who has been sentenced to life imprisonment, Grégoire Ndahimana, former mayor of the commune currently facing genocide charges and ex-judicial police inspector Fulgence Kayishema, who is in the wanted list to be indicted at ICTR.
He was not an educated, but was influential businessman in Rwanda and money is what made him known in the society. Apart from his native commune, Kanyarukiga had also business in Kigali where he had a second wife.
During closing arguments in May, the prosecutor requested for a maximum penalty of life imprisonment to be imposed on the accused, claiming that he directed the driver of a bulldozer on how to destroy the church. He is alleged to have remained there until the church was completely destroyed on April 16, 1994.
‘'The most appropriate sentence is imprisonment for the remainder of his life,'' ICTR Senior Trial Attorney Tanzanian Holo Makwaia submitted, adding, ‘'Innocent civilians including children and women were killed brutally and in a barbaric manner in the house of God.''
However, Canadian lead defence Counsel, David Jacobs, sought for acquittal of his client, claiming that the prosecution had failed to prove its case beyond reasonable doubts.
‘'My client is what he is. He is an innocent man, a family man and a respected businessman,'' Jacobs alleged insisting that the accused was not a member of a joint criminal enterprise, as portrayed by the prosecution.
The defence closed its case on February 12 after presenting 22 witnesses whereas the prosecution completed theirs on September 17, 2009 after fielding 11 witnesses. Kanyarukiga's trial took off on August 31, 2008. He was arrested in South Africa on July 16, 2004 and transferred to Arusha three days later.
© Hirondelle News Agency