Following his deportation from Canada, Léon Mugesera, was on Thursday facilitated to call his family and lawyers back in Canada in a bid to search for a lawyer after he turned down the possibility for a local attorney, The New Times has learnt.
With his initial appearance in the horizon, Mugesera has now requested the prosecution to grant him a month or two to get his own lawyer, Prosecutor General Martin Ngoga said in an exclusive interview yesterday.
He said Mugesera’s file is already in the hands of the prosecution after Police handed over the dossier the day after the suspect’s deportation.
Mugesera arrived in Kigali on Wednesday, two decades after he fled the country following an inflammatory speech he gave in Kabaya, former Gisenyi Prefecture, on November 22, 1992.
According to Ngoga, Mugesera, 59, will appear in the High Court next week, but he informed the prosecution yesterday that he might not be able to get a lawyer of his choice immediately, requesting for a month or two to get one.
“We received the file from police the day after his arrival. In fact, we had wanted to commence interrogations on Thursday but it didn’t continue because he could not find a lawyer.
There are several ways for him to find lawyers: One is to write to the Bar Association asking for a pro bono lawyer who can be provided under the legal aid arrangement if he proved to be indigent,” Ngoga explained.
“The other option, we explained to him, is if he is able to pay for a lawyer of his own choice, and that’s what he preferred. The problem that made us not continue with the interrogations, is that he couldn’t find a lawyer,” Ngoga explained.
“What we understand from the conversation he had with his family is that they promised to get him two Rwandan lawyers and also his Canadian lawyers might be available but he informed us he is not able to get them soon. He needs a month or two,” Ngoga noted.
He said that arrangements were underway to get him a temporary lawyer for the initial appearance.
“We’re looking at the possibility under which a defence lawyer can hold brief so he can appear in court, next week, until he gets a lawyer of his choice. Of course we will not force him into substantive case before he gets his own lawyer, but we can’t skip a criminal procedure either.
“However, if he says he wants his own lawyer, we assume that such a lawyer should be available within a reasonable time because we do not want to hold the system at ransom because of indecision,” Ngoga stated.
Mugesera is in a transit detention facility in Kigali which was put in place specifically to host deportees or “other serious criminals” extradited from abroad, as their cases wait to be heard in the High Court. Such individuals are tried in the High Court at the first instance.
He noted that Mugesera has the right to receive visitors, consult with lawyers and family, among others.
“He has the same rights as any other prisoner in Rwanda,” he said, though he did not state the exact charges Mugesera faces.
“We are not starting from scratch, but we need to understand at the same time that whatever we did, we did it in his absence. I cannot pretend that there is no additional work to be done”.
On the request from some residents of Kabaya – where Mugesera gave the speech from – to have Mugesera tried there, the prosecutor general said, while their plea is understandable, the speech affected the whole nation.
“We are looking into how we can enable the whole country to follow his trial”.
He said the case will be as transparent as possible for the public to follow.
In a 1992 speech in Kabaya, Gisenyi, Mugesera termed the Tutsi “cockroaches” and “scum,” as he encouraged Hutus to kill them and dump them into River Nyabarongo – a source of the Nile – arguing it was a short cut to Abyssinia (Ethiopia), where he claimed they originated from.