The New Times (Kigali)

6 February 2013

Rwanda: Mugesera Seeks Legal Support

Genocide suspect Leon Mugesera has written a letter to the Minister of Justice seeking legal aid to pay his lawyers and cover other legal expenses.

In the letter dated January 31, 2013, a copy of which The New Times has seen, Mugesera argues that even when he was being tried from Canada his lawyer then, Me Guy Bertrand was getting all facilities from the Canadian government.

His defence team comprises Jean Felix Rudakemwa from Rwanda, Otachi Bw'Omanwa from Kenya, and Melissa Kanas from the United States. The two foreign lawyers have not appeared in court since Mugesera started his defence but their colleague, Rudakemwa says although he cannot link their absence to the financial constraints of their client, both lawyers will need their fees when they later come.

They are currently at the ICTR defending other clients, according to Rudakemwa.

The letter, written in French, highlights 24 grounds on which Mugesera bases his application.

It was copied to president of Supreme Court.

However Justice Minister Tharcisse Karagurama said he had not yet received the letter when contacted by The New Times yesterday.

The minister, however, added that there was no need for Mugesera to hire international lawyers if he was really poor.

He suggested government's readiness to provide lawyers from the local bar association if its proved that the suspect deserved legal aid.

Mugesera was given a laptop, a printer and other facilities to facilitate him in his defence.

But Rudakemwa says the law stipulates $50 (Rfw30,000) per hour for a lawyer.

The lawyer added that they had previously written twice to the president of the High Court asking for legal fees and other materials to help them execute their defence. The letter further asks for facilitation for two researchers to help the suspect get more facts and evidence for his trial.

The legal support, Rudakemwa said, would help Mugesera get legal representation of all the three lawyers.

Meanwhile, the same letter says Mugesera needs four years to prepare his defense. The prosecution, the letter reads, took nine years to study this case, and therefore he also needs the four years.

The prosecution, however, has previously told the court that this was Mugesera's maneuvers to delay the trial, a charge reiterated by the Justice minister yesterday.

The Rwandan law governing Bars Association grants legal support to the poor and internationally indicted people. Mugesera was deported from Canada in January, last year to be tried in Rwanda over a speech he made at Kabaya in the former Gisenyi prefecture, a speech the prosecution says incited the Genocide.

Meanwhile, court yesterday postponed his trial until Thursday to enable the defendant to put in order all his documents.

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