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Former Bishop Musabyimana pleads not guilty to four counts

Former Anglican Bishop Samuel Musabyimana (44) today pleaded not guilty to four counts charging him with genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide and crimes against humanity, specifically extermination. The accused, wearing his episcopal robes, entered the plea when he made his initial appearance before Judge William Sekule.

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 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 Tutsis who had sought refuge at Shyogwe Diocese following the escalation of the Rwandan conflict in Gitarama prefecture. About 500 civilians had sought refuge at the Diocese.

The Indictment also alleges that the Bishop had requested firearms to protect the diocese. However, with the Bishop’s knowledge, those firearms were distributed to militias and others manning roadblocks in the diocese where they would be used to kill Tutsis.

Further, it is alleged that 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. Addressing himself to all his fellow bishops of the Anglican communion, in particular the Archbishop of Canterbury, to all Christians of his diocese of Shyogwe and to his family he said that he was innocent of the charges against him, that his conscience was clear and that he needed their prayers.

Judge Sekule assured him of his rights as laid down in the Statute of the Tribunal as well as the principle of the presumption of innocence for accused people appearing before the Tribunal. He told the accused that he could raise any issue pertinent to his case in motions, which he can file after the initial appearance.

Bishop Musabyimana, who was born on 6 July 1956 in Mwendo commune Kibuye prefecture, was arrested in Nairobi, Kenya on 26 April 2001 and transferred immediately to the Detention Facility of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) in Arusha.

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