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Dutch citizen put on trial over Rwanda genocide

The International Criminal Court in The Hague has put a Dutch citizen on trial on charges related to the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. This is the first time that a Dutch national has tried over the genocide.

Prosecutors at the International Criminal Court in The Hague charged Yvonne Basebya, 65, with genocide for her alleged role in the massacre of Tutsis by Hutu extremists in 1994.

Speaking at the opening of the trial on Monday, prosecutor Ward Fernandusse accused Basebya of involvement in the "killing and raping of Tutsis with the aim of the extermination of the Tutsi population group."

Specifically, prosecutors accused Basebya of inciting Hutus to kill Tutsis in the capital, Kigali, between 1990 and 1994, using "gifts, promises, abuse of authority, violence or threat of violence." They also accused her of having been a ringleader in a 1994 attack on a church in which around 100 people, including children, were killed using clubs and machetes.

Prosecutors also said they had evident shat she had sung songs including "Tubatsembatsembe", which means "exterminate them (Tutsis)" and made lists of Tutsis who were meant to be killed.

Basebya, who was arrested more than two years ago, denies the charges agains her. Her lawyer, Victor Koppe told the AFP news agency prior to the start of the trial that they were based on information from a “small group of witnesses conspiring against my client.”

After the trial began, Koppe called on the judge to dismiss the case, saying the witnesses cited by prosecutors were the same ones who were found to be unreliable by a Kigali court in the case of a man accused of involvement in the genocide.

"We only found out at the very last moment that this judgement existed. The prosecution cynically held back this judgement. My client's right to a fair trial has been damaged beyond repair," Koppe said.

Speaking from the dock on Monday, Basebya maintained her innocence.

"I was given Dutch citizenship in 2004 because they (the government) did an investigation and found that I was innocent," she said.

Violence broke out in Rwanda after the plane carrying the country's Hutu president was shot down on April 6, 1994. An estimated 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed in the three months that followed.

pfd/sej (AFP,dpa)