Six men accused of trying to murder refugee Rwandan general and suspected war criminal Kayumbe Nyamwasa in Johannesburg have pleaded not guilty to all charges against them.
Nyamwasa fled to South Africa last year, shortly before he was found guilty by a Rwandan military court on charges related to terrorism.
He was granted refugee status by the Department of Home Affairs.
In June last year, he survived an attempt on his life.
The six men, who include Nyamwasa’s driver, said yesterday they were not guilty of attempted murder or possession of ammunition and firearms in relation to the shooting in Nyamwasa’s driveway in Melrose, Johannesburg.
The sixth accused, Pascal Kanyandekwe, a Rwandan citizen who also holds a Belgian passport, pleaded not guilty to corruption. This charge relates to his alleged offer of -million to two investigating officers to stop them arresting him.
It emerged yesterday in the Johannesburg Magistrate’s Court that the Rwandan government had appointed a lawyer, GP van der Merwe, to monitor the trial to ensure its name was not tarnished.
Prosecutor Shaun Abrahams asked the court to conceal the identity of his first witness, who is in a protection programme.
Abrahams said the witness was “afraid of persons aligned with the accused, and he is afraid of persons aligned to the Rwandan government”.
The man appeared on the verge of tears as he explained that his wife and three children were with him in the witness protection programme.
Abrahams asked specifically that counsel for the Rwandan government “not disclose the name or identity of the witness to the Rwandan government”.
Van der Merwe replied that this was a request for an “absurd order” and that the “government of Rwanda is not, in any event, implicated in this [case]”.
The matter was postponed to today after it was agreed that there were problems with translations between English, Swahili, Kinyarwanda and French.
The Southern Africa Litigation Centre and the Consortium of Refugees and Migrant Rights SA have lodged a court application to overturn the government’s decision to grant Nyamwasa asylum.
According to a press release, the governments of Spain and France have also issued warrants for his arrest.
The Spanish indictment “maintains Nyamwasa was responsible for the massacre of 2500 Hutu refugees and the murder of four Spanish nationals”.
A French judge had issued a warrant in 2006 in connection with the shooting down of an aircraft carrying the Rwandan and Burundian presidents in April 1994, which “ignited the genocide”.