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Genocide suspect pleads innocent

PORVOO, Sept 3 – A Rwandan man accused of taking part in the African country’s 1994 genocide took the stand in a Finnish court on Thursday to deny all the charges against him.

"I would like to say that I have done none of the things that I am being accused of and I hope that the Finnish court will prove it and release me," 58-year-old Francois Bazaramba told Porvoo district court.

State prosecutor Raija Toiviainen alleges the 58-year-old Baptist minister planned, led and carried out the Nyakizu massacre.

It is believed that nearly 5,000 Tutsis lost their lives in the massacre, part of the genocide that claimed the lives of some 800,000 people, mostly ethnic Tutsis but also moderate Hutus.

Failing a guilty verdict on the genocide charge, Toivianen has called for judges to convict Bazaramba on 15 counts of murder.

But Bazaramba, a Hutu, said it seemed to him that the Rwandan authorities and the Baptist Union had fabricated the case against him.

"It seems that witnesses have been prepared for testimonies. They have been forced to speak," he said.

"I am really surprised that these accusations contain a lot of lies and I am worried that some people believe these lies," Bazaramba said.

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The case, Finland’s first ever to involve genocide charges, opened last Tuesday in Porvoo, some 50 kilometres (31 miles) northeast of the capital Helsinki.

Earlier this year, Finland’s justice ministry rejected an extradition request from Rwanda because of fears that Bazaramba would not receive a fair trial there.

In mid-September, judges will travel to the African country to spend a month hearing testimonies from witnesses.

Bazaramba moved to Finland in 2003 from Zambia and has been held in police custody since April 2007.

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