Arusha, November 15, 2012 (FH) – The defence lawyer of former Rwandan politician Léon Mugesera claimed in an interview with Hirondelle Thursday that his client was being mistreated in a Kigali jail. Rwandan authorities strongly denied the allegations, calling them “extreme nonsense”.

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Mugesera, who was extradited from Canada in January, is due to go on trial Monday for allegedly inciting genocide in a 1992 speech.

His lawyer Jean-Félix Rudakemwa said allegations of mistreatment sent to Canadian newspaper Le Soleil were true. They include claims of “death threats, rotten food, rats and bedbugs in his prison cell”. Rudakemwa also claimed that Rwandan authorities did not allow him enough time to speak confidentially with his client to prepare the trial.

“That’s the reality, it is all true,” Rudakemwa told Hirondelle by phone.

According to Wednesday’s edition of Le Soleil, Rudakemwa sent Mugesera’s family in Canada a document “detailing more than 20 alleged irregularities that prove, according to him, that Rwandan authorities are seriously violating Mugesera’s fundamental rights”.

“These statements are extremely outrageous and frankly, I believe something is terribly wrong with these men,” said Rwandan Prosecutor General Martin Ngoga in response to the claims. He said lawyers needed to show more “common sense and self respect”, instead of repeating their clients’ claims “in a robotic style”. Ngoga stressed that “Mugesera is detained in a UN approved facility and enjoys visits by the Red Cross.”

Dativa Mukanyangezi, head of human rights at the national correctional service, also strongly denied the allegations.“All these allegations are lies and propaganda,” she said. “Mugesera is held in an individual cell which is well aired, well maintained and well equipped. He has a computer and printer in the cell to help him prepare his trial. As for the meetings between Mugesera and his lawyer, well I can tell you that they are together right now.”

Mugesera is held in Kigali Central Prison which, according to the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, meets UN standards concerning detention. Pentecostal Pastor Jean Uwinkindi, the first person transferred by the ICTR to Rwanda, is also held in this prison, commonly known as “1930” after its year of construction.

On September 19, Mugesera obtained a two-month postponement of his trial so as to better prepare. The prosecutor says his 1992 speech called on Hutus to massacre Tutsis, but he claims his words have been misinterpreted and taken out of context. Mugesera, who is also a linguist, was extradited from Canada after losing a 15 year battle against extradition.

Mugesera’s lawyer told Hirondelle they were ready for the trial “apart from a few little problems”. He is expected to be joined Monday by two more lawyers, one Kenyan and one American.