18 January 2013

Rwanda: Mugesera Trial Kicks Off

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

Atmosphere at the Special Chambers of the High Court was tense yesterday as the trial of Leon Mugesera finally kicked off in substance.


> In Leon Mugesera's speech, the noun inyenzi (cockroaches) was frequently used. Prosecution says it was meant to dehumanise Tutsis, as all the planners of the genocide treated their targets as insects.

>The court last week rejected Mugesera's plea to have two trial judges, Athanase Bakuzukundi and Eugene Ndagijimana, stand down, paving way for his trial to begin.

Several other pleas were being filed by the defence team even at the last minute yesterday, pleas the court rejected. At about 9am, the court proceeded to read the accused the five genocide charges he is accused of.

Mugesera made more pleas; including asking for four more years to study his file, arguing that prosecution has been studying it for nine years.

Beaten to the corner, the Genocide suspect made a feeble, albeit decent final plea at noon, asking the court to grant his lawyers and witnesses incentives, claiming they were not being paid, but the judge overruled that too.

The accused was asked to take his plea of either guilty or not guilty. However, he ignored the court.

Speech tape

Prosecution, headed by Prosecutor-General Martin Ngoga, was given the floor after complaints that the defence was intentionally delaying the trial.

Prosecution accused Mugesera of inciting masses to partake in genocide, planning and preparing the genocide, conspiracy in the crime of genocide, torture as a crime against mankind, and inciting hatred among people.

Prosecutor Jean Bosco Mutangana said the five accusations emanate from a speech Mugesera made at a meeting on November 22, 1992, in Kabaya prefecture, then Gisenyi prefecture, where he was vice president of MRND, the then ruling party.

The court heard that the speech played a major role in sparking the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.

An audio clip of the speech was played lasting 28 minutes and 50 seconds. A transcription of the speech was also read out before the tense court.

But Mugesera, who kept interrupting the prosecution to defend himself despite the court assurance that he will be given enough time to speak, said the tape was not authentic.

The prosecution said the speech was a continuation of Ferdinand Nahimana's speech, which incited the killing of 200 Tutsi in Bugesera in 1992.

The trial continues today with the prosecution's submission on the four other accusations.

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