Munyagishari trial begins

The trial of Genocide suspect Bernard Munyagishari got underway yesterday at the Nyarugunga Primary Court, in Kigali, with the suspect refusing to speak in Kinyarwanda and a defence lawyer rejected. 
Bernard Munyagishari (L) arrives at Kanombe court yesterday. The New Times/John Mbanda.
Bernard Munyagishari (L) arrives at Kanombe court yesterday. The New Times/John Mbanda.

The trial of Genocide suspect Bernard Munyagishari got underway yesterday at the Nyarugunga Primary Court, in Kigali, with the suspect refusing to speak in Kinyarwanda and a defence lawyer rejected. 

Prosecution kicked off the opening by informing Munyagishari of the multiple charges he faces.

They include, planning and organising the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, the crime of genocide, conspiracy in the crime of Genocide, rape and murder as a crime against humanity.

Prosecutor Ndimbwami Rugambwa, was however, obliged to prove to court that Munyagishari understands Kinyarwanda and also prove why he had to defend himself in Kinyarwanda.

“Munyagishari was born and raised in Rwanda, he studied in Rwanda and also taught in Kinyarwanda.  Between 1981 and 1982 he was tried in Ruhengeri courts over allegations of having sex with an underage girl and the whole verbatim of this trial is in Kinyarwanda so he should speak in Kinyarwanda,” said Rugambwa.

The prosecutor requested court to remand the suspect for 30 days as he prepared his case.

As Rugambwa concluded his submissions, presiding Judge Felix Ndahigwa ordered Munyagishari to speak in Kinyarwanda but he remained adamant, only staring at the judge like he didn’t understand what was going on.

Munyagishari later told court that he was given a letter by the prosecution asking him to appear in court but never received any summons.

When his lawyer Donatien Mucyo attempted to address the court, Munyagishari interrupted him, saying he didn’t represent him.

“So I won’t say anything before this court. And, I don’t have a lawyer so no one should,” he said in French.

Transferred from the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) on July 24, Munyagishari, claimed that Nyarugunga Primary Court had no jurisdiction to try him since he was never summoned by that court.

Judge Ndahigwa will today announce the court decision on the prosecution request.

It is understood that during the interrogations, Munyagishari claimed that he was arrested because of mistaken identity and that he is a Congolese national.

He, however, did not bring up this issue in court yesterday.

Munyagishari was arrested in May 2011 in DR Congo, following an arrest warrant issued by the ICTR.

During the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, the 53-year old was general secretary of the then ruling party,  the National Republican Movement for Democracy and Development (MRND), in Gisenyi prefecture and president of the Interahamwe militia.

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