Kigali, 23 October 2012 (FH) – A Norwegian court trying former Rwandan businessman Sadi Bugingo this week started hearing more than 50 witnesses by video conference from Kigali. Bugingo, 47, is accused of playing a key role in the genocide of Tutsis in Kibungo, eastern Rwanda, in 1994. He has been living in Norway since 2001.

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On Monday the five judges sitting in Oslo heard three witnesses, of whom two defended Bugingo. “Bugingo was a good man, he saved more than 20 people,” said one witness. A woman saying she was Bugingo's sister-in-law told the court that he “did not belong to any political party, and did not take part in any political meetings”.

The third witness, however, accused Bugingo. “He did not kill with his own hands, but he planned and supervised the genocide,” the witness said. According to her, Bugingo participated in several meetings with other “planners” of the massacres. “I know him very well, him and his whole family,” she added.

The hearings are set to continue until November 29. The witnesses are testifying from a room in the Supreme Court in Kigali which has video conference equipment. The trial proceedings are being conducted in Norwegian with translation into kinyarwanda, the language of the witnesses.

Bugingo was arrested in Norway in 2010. This is the first genocide trial before a Norwegian court. It is expected to last several months and to close in early 2013.

Rwanda had wanted to hold the trial in its own courts but its extradition request was rejected since the accused has obtained Norwegian citizenship.