Lawyer asks int'l court to free Rwandan rebel

AP News
Posted: Mar 30, 2011 11:02 AM
Lawyer asks int'l court to free Rwandan rebel

The lawyer of a Rwandan rebel accused of involvement in war crimes and crimes against humanity in Congo asked the International Criminal Court Wednesday to release him from detention and allow him to return to his family in France.

Defense attorney Nick Kaufman said his client, Callixte Mbarushimana, will not try to flee justice or threaten witnesses if he is released.

"His present detention is a source of severe moral and financial hardship to both his wife and children who, until his arrest, were financially dependent on him," Kaufman wrote in his application to the judges.

Prosecutors say Mbarushimana is a a leader of the Hutu rebel group Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda. He is accused of 11 counts of crimes against humanity and war crimes, including murder, rape, persecution based on gender, and extensive destruction of property.

Mbarushimana had been on Interpol's list of wanted fugitives for alleged involvement in the Rwandan genocide in 1994, but he was arrested in connection with crimes in 2009 in Congo's Kivu provinces, where Hutu militants from Rwanda have been active. He has denied any involvement in the crimes.

Mbarushimana was arrested last October at his home in Paris and transferred to The Hague in January, where he was jailed at the court's cell complex. A hearing to weigh prosecutors' evidence and determine whether it is strong enough to merit a full trial has been scheduled for July 4.

Prosecutors allege that FDLR fighters deliberately targeted civilians in Congo "in order to ultimately obtain political concessions."

They say that although Mbarushimana lived in France at the time of the crimes he "personally and intentionally" contributed to a criminal plan by leading an international campaign seeking political power.

Kaufman wrote that although Mbarushimana has been accused of involvement in Rwanda's genocide by authorities in Kigali and was put under investigation by a U.N. tribunal, he has never tried to flee and would not do so now.

"Mr. Mbarushimana has ... consistently shown a demonstrable respect for judicial authority and a strong commitment to clearing his name through the judicial process," Kaufman wrote.