19 November 2012

Rwanda: Mugesera Requests for Postponement Again

Photo: T. Kisambira/ The New Times
Leo Mugesera, far right, speaking to his lawyers in court.

Genocide suspect Leon Mugesera yesterday reappeared at the High Court and requested for 48 more days before the trial against him starts in substance.

This is the second time he is requesting for a postponement after initially asking for two months to prepare. Yesterday, he told court that he did not use the two months given to him by court because the running system of his laptop was installed on November 6.

This, according to Mugesera, made it impossible to use the computer to read a 40,000-page file from Canada before installing the system.

Mugesera's lawyer Jean Felix Rudakemwa backed the argument.

"Our client couldn't use the two-month time he was given. It's understandable that he used 13 days only, but that was not due to his fault," noted Rudakemwa, insisting that the case should be postponed and resume on January 7, 2013.

Mugesera also requested the delay arguing that members of his defense team were authorized by Kigali Bar Association a bit late. Apart from Rudakemwa, the defense team also comprises other two new lawyers namely Gershom Otachi, a Kenyan national who was also present, and Melissa Kanas who is yet to join from the USA.

"My lawyers couldn't prepare the case while they hadn't yet received an approval," Mugesera complained. "All these are challenges to me, and that delay was not due to my fault."

Furthermore, Mugesera raised an issue of barrier language as his new lawyers can't use Kinyarwanda; the reason why he requested to provide for them English and Kinyarwanda versions of the indictment act because it was issued in Kinyarwanda.

For Mugesera, the court should take into consideration these arguments so as to have "a fair and equitable trial."

But the prosecution, headed by the National Prosecutor General Martin Ngoga, was not for the postponement and requested the court to commence the trial in substance.

"There has been too much delay, but it is in the interest of the justice that this trial should commence," said Ngoga, adding that the defense team couldn't elaborate substantively what prevented the accused to prepare his case. He also reiterated that the file from Canada that Mugesera wants to go through should not be a reason for the delay as it doesn't make part of the indictment act.

"The trial shouldn't be interrupted basing on something which is not being used," he said.

Reacting on the issue of barrier language, Ngoga said that they are not responsible for translating the documents for Mugesera's lawyers. The court had ruled that all proceedings take place in Kinyarwanda as far as the accused use it. The prosecutor general, however, noted that possibilities of providing translation would be examined once he legally proves that he is poor.

The prosecutor general wasn't also convinced by argument that the new members of the defense team need time to align with the progress of the case, but said it should be an issue of their internal organization.

"Mugesera has been coming to court with his lawyers - and we are not against his will to increase a number of them, but the new staff should not interrupt the trial," he said.

Mugesera, a PhD holder in linguistics and father of five, was deported from Canada on January 24 after about 20 years that he had been living there. He is accused of masterminding the Genocide, inciting people to exterminate Tutsis and spreading hate among people. His infamous speech containing words of hate was made in 1992 in Kibilira, in the former Gisenyi prefecture.

The prosecution handed to court Mugesera's indictment act on May 28, and requested immediate commencement of the trial in substance, but there have been many postponements due to various reasons.

After getting arguments from both sides, the judge ruled that the decision to go on or postpone the trial in substance will be announced today at 10: 00 am.

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