Arusha, May 15, 2014 (FH) -  The genocide trial of Pastor Jean Uwinkindi finally opened Wednesday before a court in Kigali, after two years of delays. Uwinkindi is the first person to be transferred to Rwanda by the UN’s International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR). His trial has been postponed several times because of defence motions.

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Uwinkindi, a pentecostal pastor who headed a rural parish in eastern Rwanda, was transferred to the Rwandan authorities in April 2012 after a long legal battle.

As his trial opened on Wednesday, Prosecutor Jean-Bosco Mutangana reminded the court that Uwinkindi is charged with genocide and extermination as a crime against humanity.

Clad in the pink uniform of Rwandan prisoners, the accused pleaded his innocence. “I did not commit the crimes alleged by the prosecution, but rather I was a victim of the genocide,” Uwinkindi told the High Court in Kigali.

The second member of the prosecution, Bonaventure Ruberwa, said Tutsis had been victims of persecution from the eve of Rwanda’s independence in 1962 up to and including the 1994 genocide. He alleged that the churches had always allied themselves with various governments to persecute Tutsis. 

The trial was due to continue Thursday with the prosecution describing the massacres that took place during the genocide in Kanzenze commune, where Uwinkindi preached.

According to the indictment drawn up by the ICTR, Uwinkindi is “responsible for killing or causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the Tutsi population with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a racial or ethnic group”.

He is accused of having killed Tutsis himself and ordered others to massacre Tutsis, including members of his own congregation.

Uwinkindi is defended by lawyers Gatera Gashabana and Jean- Baptiste Niyibizi from the Bar of Kigali.

A second and last ICTR accused transferred to Rwanda, former militia leader Bernard Munyagishari, is still waiting for his trial to start.