‘Genocide’ Singer may get life in prison

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A prosecutor at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) Monday urged that a life imprisonment be imposed on Simon Bikindi, a Rwandan musician accused of “direct and public incitement through his songs to commit genocide”.

“The only reasonable verdict in this case is a verdict of guilt. Mr Bikindi deserves life imprisonment,” William Egbe, representative of the Prosecutor’s Office , pleaded. “His songs incited genocide,” Egbe added, accusing Bikindi of having put “extraordinary talent” in the service of a criminal undertaking.

The Cameroonian jurist confirmed that Bikindi, the only artist charged to date by the ICTR, could in no way benefit from extenuating circumstances. He highlighted Bikindi’s close links with the 1,000 Free Radio (RTLM) which broadcast messages of hatred against the Tutsis.

These RTLM messages were coupled with Bikindi’s songs with comments of the radio’s presenters.

Andrea O’Shea, Bikindi’s lawyer, noted there was a major contradiction in the evidence given by witnesses for the prosecution and asked for the acquittal of his client. Mr. O’Shea affirmed that Bikindi only sang for peace.

Taking the floor, the defendant protested his innocence, saying “I have no doubt that the judges have realised that they have, before them, an innocent person. I feel extraordinary strength”, he said, smiling.

At the heart of this case are three songs in Rwandese language of which the Defence counsel and the Prosecution have diametrically opposed interpretations. But Bikindi is also accused of having participated in massacres of Tutsis in 1994 in his native region of Gisenyi (North).

The defendant, who introduced himself, when giving evidence, as “a son of griots”, was a member of the National Republican Movement for Democracy and Develçopment (MRND), the party of former president Juvénal Habyarimana.

He was arrested in the Netherlands in July 2001 and his trial opened in September 2006.

Based in Arusha, in northern Tanzania, ICTR pronounced to date 30 sentences and five acquittals. Panapress .

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