Rwandan genocide suspect Felicien Kabuga, arrested this month after more than two decades on the run, told a French court on Wednesday that the international charges against him were lies.
Kabuga has been indicted by UN prosecutors for genocide and incitement to commit genocide.
He is accused of bankrolling and arming ethnic Hutu militias that killed over a million Tutsis over around 100 days in 1994.
Asked if he understood the charges, Kabuga told the court through an interpreter: “All of this is lies. I have not killed any Tutsis. I was working with them.”
Kabuga was Rwanda’s most-wanted fugitive with a $5 million US bounty on his head, until French, British and Belgian intelligence agents tracked him down to an apartment in a Paris suburb.
A tussle is now playing out over where he should be tried.
The UN tribunal’s chief prosecutor has requested Kabuga be handed over.
But on Wednesday, his lawyers said the octogenarian would not receive a fair trial at the tribunal based in The Hague and Arusha, Tanzania. The international court was politically biased and Kabuga was too frail to be transferred, they said.
“If we want to see through this trial—and he wants that because he doesn’t want to go down in history as someone who carried out genocide—then the best thing would be for him to face justice here,” Kabuga’s lawyers told the judges.
The court refused a defence request that Kabuga be released under court supervision.
The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in Arusha, now replaced by a successor body, was at the centre of efforts to set new standards in international justice.
Rwandan President Paul Kagame criticised it for being too slow and too inefficient.
Other critics said it was too focused on prosecuting Hutus and not Kagame’s Tutsi-led Rwandan Patriotic Front.