Arusha, December 14, 2011 (FH) - The prosecution Wednesday asked the Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) to increase the 30-year-imprisonment sentence imposed on former Rwandan businessman Gaspard Kanyarukiga, for his role in the 1994 genocide.

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Kanyarukiga was convicted of genocide and extermination, as a crime against humanity, on November 1, 2010, for planning, with others, the demolition of a church in western Rwanda, on April 16, 1994. About 2,000 Tutsis, who had taken refuge in the church in Kivumu commune, Kibuye prefecture, were killed.

"Kanyarukiga successfully planned the massacres of 2,000 Tutsi refugees. He participated in the planning of the demonstration of the church on April 16, 1994 and, hence contributed significantly in the crime," Prosecutor Steffen Wirth told presiding Judge Patrick Robinson.

He also faulted as irrelevant two criteria considered by Trial Chamber, including Kanyarukiga's absence during the massacres and his direct participation to the crime in assessing the sentence. "The Appeals Chamber should find that the Trial Chamber committed an error and increase the sentence imposed," he argued.

However, Kanyarukiga's Lead Counsel David Jacobs, asked the Appeals Chamber to set free his client or significantly reduce the sentence imposed if the conviction would be upheld. He submitted that Kanyarukiga was tried and convicted of charges which were not known to him.

"Kanyarukiga is an innocent man who has been wrongly convicted. He was not informed in the amended indictment of crimes he was convicted. His conviction was unfair and should be vacated," he said.

The counsel also alleged that there was no basis upon which the Trial Chamber could conclude that there was collusion among witnesses, who support Kanyarukiga's defence of alibi that during massacre he was not at Nyange Church.

"Kanyarukiga had 13 alibi witnesses who came from different places. There was no evidence to show these people met or colluded. The conclusion by the trial Chamber sabotaged the defence case," he submitted.

Kanyarukiga is not the only Rwandan linked with the massacre at Nyange church. Among others, are parish priest Athanase Seromba, currently serving life imprisonment sentence and Grégoire Ndahimana, former mayor of the commune, who was recently sentenced to 15 years in jail.

Kanyarukiga 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, the convict had also business in Kigali where he had a second wife.

His trial took off on August 31, 2008. He was arrested in South Africa on July 16, 2004 and transferred to Arusha three days later.           


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