A former top Rwandan official found guilty of genocide by a Brussels court will file an appeal against his 25-year sentence, his lawyer announced.
One of Fabien Neretse’s lawyers, Jean Flamme, confirmed that he had lodged an appeal with the cassation court against his client’s conviction, delivered by the Brussels court of assize on 20 December, BX1 reports.
Flamme said the trial against his client was marred by irregularities and manipulations, adding that an immediate arrest warrant executed after the verdict was delivered had been illegal.
“We are convinced that Mr Neretse was illegally arrested at the hearing,” Flamme, arguing that a 2018 decree ordering Neretse’s arrest had been invalidated by two subsequent decrees. “We have introduced an appeal against this decree — our client must be set free as early as possible.”
In an unprecedented trial in Belgium, which relied heavily on witnesses’ oral testimonies, a Brussels jury found Neretse guilty of a string of murders, of attempted murders as well as of crimes of war and of genocide.
He was also found guilty of creating and maintaining an armed militia which carried out slews of killings in his home village, where witnesses said he was seen as a local “lord.”
A former top official in the majority Hutu government which orchestrated the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, Neretse fled to France as a political refugee, where he lived for several years before being brought before a court by Belgium, which seized the case since one of the deaths Neretse was accused of causing was that of a Belgian citizen in the capital Kigali.
Neretse’s lawyer cited the court’s denial to bring forth key witnesses for the defence as a central in their decision to appeal, telling De Morgen that “the trial has been manipulated and manufactured across the board.”
Flamme also said that the court had not allowed him to present his full act of defence in its entirety on the opening day of the trial, when the court’s president stopped him as he deviated from the text, urging him to respect the court’s regulations and to a strict reading of the file.