Arusha, June 20, 2011(FH) - The alleged Rwandan Interahamwe militia leader arrested last month in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Bernard Munyagishari, Monday pleaded not guilty to genocide and crimes against humanity in his initial appearance before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR).

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‘'I plead not guilty,'' said Munyagishari as the Presiding Judge Dennis Byron read out one count after another to the accused and demanded a response.

Munyagishari, 52, is described by the prosecution as the former president of Interahamwe in Gisenyi prefecture, north Rwanda. He is accused of conspiracy to commit genocide, genocide or alternatively complicity in genocide and murder and rape as crimes against humanity.

‘'Your plea on each count has been recorded. You are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond reasonable doubts,''   Judge Byron assured the accused as he stood calm in the witness box.

Munyagishari who was arrested on May 25, 2011 in North Kivu in DRC was transferred to the Tribunal's detention facility in Arusha, Tanzania on June 14, 2011. During his initial appearance the accused was represented by Tanzanian Duty Counsel, Nelson Merinyo.

Born in 1959 in Rubavu commune in Gisenyi prefecture the accused is alleged to have recruited, trained and led Interahamwe militiamen in mass killings and rapes of Tutsi women in Gisenyi and beyond, between April and July 1994.

Munyagishari's arrest has reduced the number of fugitives still at large to nine.


© Hirondelle News Agency