Arusha, June 28th, '99 (FH) - Lawyers for Rwandan genocide suspect Alfred Musema on Monday told the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) that their defence case rested on alibis. They were speaking at the start of their closing arguments in the trial of the former tea factory director.

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"The defence is one of alibi," British defence counsel Steven Kay said. "The defendant denies presence at the scene of the crimes. It is not alibi as to one event but several over a long period of time. " Kay told the court that the alibi argument is based on documents provided by Swiss investigating judge Claude Nicati, and research conducted by the defence team in Rwanda last March. Musema was arrested in Switzerland on February 11th, 1995. His case was first handled by the judicial authorities of the Swiss military, until the ICTR requested his transfer to Arusha. In the course of the trial, Musema's defence team have shown the court various documents including letters, bills and orders to travel, as proof that their client was not in Kibuye prefecture (western Rwanda) at the time he is accused of committing the crimes. Musema is accused of ordering and participating in massacres in the Bisesero region of Kibuye, where thousands of ethnic Tutsis fled between April and July 1994 to escape persecution. He is also accused of rape. The defence team says the alibi documents were not falsified. It says prosecutors must have been aware of the documents when they investigated at the Gisovu tea factory. Kay's Dutch co-counsel, Michail Wladmiroff, said documents showed that Musema was merely the director of the tea factory and had no power over the killers. He added that Musema had played no part in the massacres. The court has heard 24 witnesses for the prosecution and six for the defence since the trial started on January 25th this year. Musema's lawyers have questioned the credibility of the prosecution witnesses. They say people may make allegations because they have falsely identified the accused, because they have heard others make such allegations, because they seek reward or advancement or because they seek revenge. Last Thursday, the prosecution urged the court to find Musema guilty of genocide and crimes against humanity, and to imprison him for life. The defence team is due to finish its closing arguments on Monday. CR/AT/JCFH (MU'a70628E)