17 January 2013

Rwanda: Trial of Professor Extradited From Canada Finally Starts in Rwanda

Photo: John Mbanda/The New Times
Genocide suspect Leon Mugesera (left) with his lawyer.

Arusha — The trial started Thursday in Rwanda of Léon Mugesera, the former Rwandan politician extradited from Canada a year ago. Charges against him include incitement to commit the genocide of 1994. The linguist and former teacher at the University of Rwanda is charged notably in connection with a speech at a big public rally of his MRND party in November 1992.

"The trial finally got under way in substance today (Thursday)," Rwandan Attorney General Martin Ngoga, who was in court himself, told Hirondelle by phone. "During the session we played the judges and the public the speech in question and laid out the facts supporting the charge of conspiracy to commit genocide. We will continue tomorrow (Friday)."

Kigali considers the speech a key trigger of the 1994 genocide. Mugesera has always protested his innocence, saying the Prosecutor has taken his speech out of context. The accused also faces four other charges, including conspiracy to commit genocide.

The trial opening was also confirmed to Hirondelle by one of Mugesera's three lawyers, Félix Rudakemwa.

Since his extradition from Canada in January 2012, Mugesera has appeared before the court several times, requesting and obtaining for various reasons more time to prepare the trial. He has nevertheless also lost some of his battles, since the Rwandan judiciary refused his requests to conduct the trial in French, and to have two of the three judges in the case recused.

Wanted by Rwanda since 1995, Mugesera fought a long legal battle in Canada against extradition, before finally losing it last year.

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