Rwanda court postpones Nkunda release hearing.




laurent_nkunda_mihigo.jpgKIGALI — A Rwandan military court in Kigali on Friday postponed the hearing of a plea to release Laurent Nkunda, a former rebel leader in the Democratic Republic of Congo, one of his lawyers said.

Aime Bokanga said that the postponement of the case which had been set to take place on Friday was due to the absence of main defence lawyer, Stephan Bourgon of Canada.

"He informed the tribunal that he was detained by another case in The Hague. The audience was therefore postponed until September 24," Bokanga said.

Nkunda has been held since January 2009.

A hearing due to take place on May 11 was called off for the lack of an interpreter, since the court decided that the debate would take place in Kinyarwanda, which Bourgon does not understand.

Nkunda's lawyers say General James Kabarebe — former Rwandan army chief of staff who was appointed defence minister in April — is responsible for the "arrest and illegal detention" of their client.

In March Rwanda's supreme court ruled that given Kabarebe's military status, it was not competent to hear the plea.

Nkunda was arrested in Gisenyi on Rwanda's border with the DR Congo on January 22, 2009, when he was head of the rebel National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP) movement, according to people close to him.

In October 2008, Nkunda's men routed the DR Congolese army in Nord-Kivu province and threatened to take the strategic provincial capital, Goma, near the border with Rwanda.

But after a shift in alliances, the Congolese and Rwandan armies in January 2009 launched an unprecedented joint operation targeting Rwandan Hutu rebels in eastern DR Congo, which also resulted in Nkunda's arrest.

Nkundu had previously also targeted the Rwandan Hutu rebels in his attacks, proclaiming that he was determined to defend the minority population of Tutsis in eastern DR Congo. 

Copyright © 2010 AFP

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