Arusha, October 21, 2011 (FH) - The defence team of former Rwandan Youth Minister Callixte Nzabonimana Friday requested the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) to acquit their client on all counts stating that allegations against him were ‘'fabricated'' and "full of lies".

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Nzabonimana's co-Defence Counsel Philippe Larochelle told the chamber that witnesses coming from Rwandan prisons admitted that they were persuaded to implicate authorities who were in power during the genocide in order to get a reduction of sentence.  ‘'Genocide accusation in Rwanda are like commodities. They can be traded and exchanged,'' Counsel Larochelle lamented.

The Counsel also claimed that Rwandan authorities interfered with their investigation in such a way that some of their prospective witnesses finally refused to testify for Nzabonimana.

‘'We pray your honors to acquit Mr Nzabonimana on all counts. All allegations presented against Nzabonimana in Gitarama are lies'',  Philippe Larochelle pleaded.

Earlier, lead defence Counsel Vincent Courcelle-Labrousse revealed  that Gacaca courts' records collected by his team at Nyabikenke commune between 1994 and 2009 did not show any allegations against his client. ‘'We interviewed over 350 people in Rwanda and none of them ever told us that Nzabonimana took part in the 1994 genocide,‘' he said.

On Thursday Prosecution asked the Tribunal to hand down a life imprisonment sentence.

The former minister is accused of five charges including conspiracy to commit genocide, genocide, direct and public incitement to commit genocide, extermination and murder. The prosecution presents him as the main instigator of massacres of Tutsis in his native prefecture Gitarama (central Rwanda) in 1994.

Nzabonimana's trial opened on November 9, 2009 and was concluded on September 12, 2011. The prosecution called 20 witnesses, while the defence fielded 38. The ex-minister was arrested in Tanzania on February 18, 2008.

Presiding Judge Bossa declared the trial phase of the case concluded and adjourned the proceedings sine die.


© Hirondelle News Agency