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At UN tribunal for Rwanda, former bishop pleads 'not guilty' to genocide charges

At UN tribunal for Rwanda, former bishop pleads 'not guilty' to genocide charges

A former Anglican bishop today pleaded not guilty to four counts of genocide and crimes against humanity for his role in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, according to United Nations tribunal that issued the indictment.

In a statement released at its headquarters in Arusha, Tanzania, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) said Samuel Musabyimana, wearing his episcopal robes, entered the plea when he made his initial appearance before Judge William Sekule.

Mr. Musabyimana, who was Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Shyogwe, Gitarama prefecture, is alleged to have participated in a campaign of extermination against Tutsi civilians and to have facilitated their killing by specifically instructing subordinates to assist soldiers and militias to do so. The crimes are alleged to have been committed in April and May 1994 against about 500 Tutsis who had sought refuge at his diocese following the escalation of the Rwandan conflict in Gitarama prefecture.

The indictment also alleges that Mr. Musabyimana had requested firearms to protect the diocese, but that the weapons were later distributed, with the Bishop's knowledge, to militias and others manning roadblocks in the diocese where they would be used to kill Tutsis.

On or about 7 May 1994 soldiers and militias arrived at Shyogwe Diocese aboard a red pick-up vehicle to transport civilian Tutsi refugees to the killing sites. "On that day Bishop Samuel Musabyimana was present and, addressing the soldiers and militias, publicly stated that he did not oppose the killing of Tutsis, but that he did not want killings at the Diocese and that the Tutsis should be taken to Kabgayi to be killed," the indictment states.

After entering his plea, the accused complained to the Court about the manner of his arrest and said that the charges against him were serious and above all most unjust. Bishop Musabyimana was arrested in Nairobi, Kenya, on 26 April.