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Reporter Pleads to Rwanda Charges

May 15, 2000

ARUSHA, Tanzania (AP) _ The only foreigner to face charges in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda changed his plea Monday from innocent to guilty at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.

George Ruggiu, a Belgian-born Italian citizen, faces two counts of directly and publicly inciting people to commit genocide while employed at the private Radio Television Libre Des Mille Collines in Rwanda.

More than 500,000 people, mostly minority Tutsis and politically moderate Hutus, were slain between April and July 1994 by elements of the extremist Hutu-dominated government.

Ordinary Rwandans organized into militias also took part in the genocide, egged on by Hutu extremists using radio broadcasts to incite the slaughter. Tutsi-led rebels ended the blood bath when they chased the government and the army into exile in July.

``I regret the events, and I have decided to assume the responsibility,″ Ruggiu told the court. ``I am guilty because of what I was directly doing.″

The prosecution has asked for a 20-year sentence if Ruggiu is convicted. The maximum sentence the tribunal can hand down is life in prison.

Ruggiu pleaded innocent in Oct. 24, 1997. On Tuesday he told the court he had not been pressured into changing his plea.

Ruggiu had claimed through defense lawyer Mohamed Aquini that he was unaware he was being used to incite the killing.

He is the third genocide suspect to plead guilty. The others are Omar Sherushago and Jean Kabanda, who was interim prime minister during the genocide. Sherushago was jailed for 15 years and Kabanda was given a life sentence.

Created in November 1994 for 10 years, the tribunal has convicted seven people and is holding another 44 suspected genocide leaders in a special detention center.

Another 125,000 people are being held in Rwandan jails on varying degrees of participation in the genocide.

In Geneva, Switzerland, a former Rwandan mayor convicted of genocide opened an appeal against his life sentence Monday, disputing witness accounts delivered at his trial.

Fulgence Niyonteze’s appeal against the sentence for murder, attempted murder, incitement to murder and war crimes, is expected to last two weeks. It is being heard by a military tribunal in Geneva, where Niyonteze is imprisoned.

Niyonteze, 36, was the mayor of Mushubati, in the province of Gitarama, 30 miles southwest of the capital Kigali. He was accused of inciting Hutu extremists to kill Tutsis and moderate Hutus and of supplying them with weapons.