Kigali, April 27, 2012 (FH) – High Court of Kigali Friday rejected Léon Mugesera’s appeal to be tried in French.

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"The pre-detention hearings have all been conducted in Kinyarwanda and he has clearly shown he understands and speaks Kinyarwanda," Judge Anthanase Bakuzakunde said. "Mugesera's speech was in Kinyarwanda, the witnesses understand Kinyarwanda so we see no benefit in using French", he added.

The Rwandan academic was extradited from Canada in January this year after a legal battle lasting more than 15 years. He is accused of inciting genocide in a 1992 speech delivered in Kinyarwanda, during a meeting of his political party in northern Rwanda.

His trial was due to start on February 2, 2012, but Mugesera had asked for additional time to make sure his defence team would be complete. He was also requesting that the official language for the trial would be French and not Kinyarwanda, arguing that he had just spent 20 years in a non-rwandophone speaking country and that there were some judicial terms he was not familiar with in Kinyarwanda.

The Prosecution answered that “The speech was delivered in Kinyarwanda, those who suffered the consequences speak Kinyarwanda and Mugesera himself speaks Kinyarwanda.” In an interview to the French news agency AFP, Mugesera’s daughter Carmen Nono said her family wanted "the trial in French so it [could] be understood by international observers". She added that her family had not been able to find yet a foreign lawyer because they were afraid of “being in Rwanda”.

Next hearing has been slated for May 9.