The trial of Protais Zigiranyirazo, known as “Mr. Z”, began today before Trial Chamber III of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda with opening statements. The accused, brother-in-law of the late President of Rwanda, Juvénal Habyarimana, is charged with conspiracy to commit genocide, genocide, (or in the alternative) complicity in genocide, extermination and murder as crimes against humanity.
In his opening statement Prosecution Hassan Bubacar Jallow said that testimony of witnesses will show how “Mr. Z”, in complicity with others used his great power and influence to plan, order and instigate the genocide. According to the Prosecutor, Zigiranyirazo, was a member of the “Akazu”, the former President’s inner circle. “His influence extended de facto to security officials, in particular the presidential guard, Interahamwe militias MRND/CDR party leaders, government officials and local residents in Gisenyi and Kigali prefectures”
The defence team, headed by Mr. John Philpot ( Canada) denied all the allegations against the accused and argued that he was never in any conspiracy. He and his family were hiding when many of the massacres occured in Gisenyi Prefecture.
After the opening statements from both parties, Trial Chamber III composed of judges Inés Mónica Weinberg de Roca (Argentina), presiding, Khalida Rachid Khan (Pakistan) and Lee Gacuiga Muthoga (Kenya), heard the first Prosecution witness.
Protais Zigiranyirazo was arrested in Brussels, on 26 July 2001 and transferred to the UN Detention Facility in Arusha, Tanzania on 3 October 2001. He made his initial appearance at the Tribunal on 10 October 2001 pleading not guilty to all charges against him.