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DEFENCE SAYS RUGGIU'S STORY IS "TERRIBLY HUMAN"

Arusha, May 15th, 2000 (FH) - A lawyer for Georges Ruggiu, the Italo-Belgian former radio presenter who pleaded guilty to inciting genocide, told the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) on Monday that his client's story was "terribly human and particular to him", the independent news agency Hirondelle reports. Belgian co-counsel Jean-Louis Gilissen argued that his client had acted without full knowledge of what he was doing and that he could only be held criminally responsible from a date between April 12th and 14th, 1994.

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Gilissen said it was only at that point, after a tour of Kigali organized by the former Rwandan army, that Ruggiu realized the nature of the massacres taking place. He had thought the killing was taking place in the context of a civil war, and had not seen any bodies until then, the lawyer continued. However, during the visit he saw "hundreds, no doubt thousands of mutilated corpses", with not a soldier among them. "He understood then," Gilissen told the court, "that men, women and children were being killed systematically and without mercy just because they were Tutsi. " Ruggiu had set out from Kigali barracks, where the army had taken him for his security. They had told him that the Belgian soldiers serving with UN peacekeepers were looking for him to "silence him by any means". Ruggiu was a journalist and presenter with Radio-Télévision Libre des Mille Collines (RTLM), the radio station used to incite Hutu to kill Tutsi during the 1994 genocide. On Monday he pleaded guilty to inciting genocide and to crimes against humanity. The charges include persecution of moderate Hutu and Belgians, as well as Tutsi. Gilissen said that after the tour of Kigali, Ruggiu was ordered to return to the radio station and offered army protection. At RTLM he was told he had to choose sides between "us and them", and that "It is not Georges Ruggiu who is receiving protection but the RTLM journalist". Gilissen said his client was caught in a very difficult situation and "decided to carry on in spite of what he had seen". Ruggiu's co-counsel said his client had unfortunately "talked positively about the work done at roadblocks [where many Tutsis were killed], used the expression 'go to work' [kill]", and used the concept of "completing the revolution of 1959". It was in 1959 that the Hutu majority seized power from the Tutsi minority, using violence. Gilissen said that from the Kigali visit onwards, Ruggiu's words had been broadcast "with his knowledge of what kind of massacres were taking place" and that "that is Ruggiu's confession. It is not anything else. And Mr Ruggiu knows what that implies". Ruggiu, who originally pleaded not-guilty in October 1997, began confessing to prosecutors in July last year. The factual and legal details of his guilty plea are laid down in an agreement between the defence and the prosecution. "By his words, by the terms that he used in the context of the time, Mr. Ruggiu was guilty of incitement and of serious damage to the moral integrity of the Tutsi," Gilissen explained. He stressed his client had never hit, raped or killed anyone but had accepted the risk that his words could result in physical harm. Ruggiu worked for RTLM from January 6th to July 14th, 1994. Observers point out that RTLM became more and more hardline as the political situation in Rwanda deteriorated. On Monday afternoon, defence lawyers are expected to plead mitigating circumstances, ahead of a sentence by the ICTR. Ruggiu is defended by Gilissen and lead-counsel Mohamed Aouini of Tunisia. "People have attributed to Ruggiu words that were never spoken, or that were spoken by others in Kinyarwanda," Gilissen told the court. He stressed his client had had absolutely no training as a journalist or radio presenter. CR/JC/FH (RG%0515f).

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