8 January 2013

Rwanda: Mugesera Trial Goes Ahead, Accused Objects Against Judges

Photo: Timothy Kisambira
Léon Mugesera being handcuffed upon arrival at Kigali International Airport (file photo).

Judges of the High Court have ruled that the trial against Genocide suspect Leon Mugesera can go ahead despite the accused requesting its suspension until the Supreme Court decides on his plea questioning the court's jurisdiction in his case.

Appearing before the High Court on Tuesday, Mugesera requested that the trial against him be suspended until the Supreme Court decides on his appeal arguing that the High Court has no jurisdiction to try him. "Legal procedure provides that any appeal leads to suspension of the trial," Mugesera argued.

But prosecutor general Martin Ngoga, who was personally in the courtroom, rejected Mugesera's argument, saying that the court had already proved that it has jurisdiction to try the case against Mugesera. "When a court proves that it has jurisdiction to handle a case, the trial goes on," Ngoga explained.

In the end, presiding judge Athanase Bakuzakundi agreed with the prosecution. "The court found the argument to suspend the trial baseless," he said.

The judge then read the five indictments against Mugesera, all related to his infamous hate speech delivered in 1992 in Kibilira, in the former Gisenyi prefecture. He is accused of inciting people to committing Genocide, masterminding and planning Genocide and spreading hate among people.

But instead of entering a plea, as was expected, Mugesera objected against two judges, namely Athanase Bakuzakundi and Eugene Ndagijimana, arguing this time that legal procedure doesn't allow judges who were involved in the pre-trial to sit in the substantive trial.

Therefore the presiding judge concluded that a panel of judges would assess Mugesera's argument and the decision will be pronounced on Wednesday at 9am.

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