Arusha, July 30th, '99 (FH) - Belgian lawyer Luc de Temmerman says former Rwandan army officer Bernard Ntuyahaga is a key witness to events during the Rwandan genocide of 1994. In a telephone interview on Thursday with the Hirondelle news agency, De Temmerman said he would do everything to persuade Tanzanian authorities to reject Rwanda's extradition request for Ntuyahaga and allow him to testify in Belgium.

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Ntuyahaga was released by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) on March 29th, after the prosecution asked for the indictment against him to be withdrawn. He was arrested by the Tanzanian authorities the same day. Both Belgium and Rwanda put in an extradition request. However, Tanzanian authorities rejected the Belgian one, on the grounds that a suspect can only be extradited to the country where the alleged crimes were committed. Rwanda wants to try Ntuyahaga for genocide. The Rwandan extradition request is due to be heard before Tanzanian judge Projestus Rugazia, at Kisutu court in Dar es Salaam. Proceedings have so far been held up while translators and defence counsel were appointed. Tanzanian judicial authorities agreed on July 15th that Luc de Temmerman could assist the Tanzanian defence, at the request of the defendant and his family. De Temmerman is to work alongside Jwani Mwaikusa, a Tanzanian law professor assigned by the Tanzanian Supreme Court. A key witnessDe Temmerman told Hirondelle that his client was someone who could "shed light on the Rwandan tragedy and especially on the murder of the Belgian peacekeepers". Ten Belgian United Nations peacekeepers were assassinated in Kigali on April 7th, along with former Rwandan Prime Minister Agathe Uwilingiyimana. They were among the first victims of the genocide. Ntuyahaga has been accused of their murder. De Temmerman told Hirondelle, however, that the defence had "sufficient reports and witness statements to prove that he did not participate at all during the Rwandan tragedy". De Temmerman said he planned to call several witnesses living in Belgium, including the judge who carried out investigations in Rwanda. "I will do everything to persuade the Rwandan government to withdraw its extradition request, in the interests of justice and of revealing the truth," the Belgian lawyer told Hirondelle. He said it appeared that his client was being used for political ends, and that he intended to demonstrate this to the Tanzanian court. Potential witness in Bagosora trialJudicial sources meanwhile confirmed that lawyers for Théoneste Bagosora, former top advisor (directeur de cabinet) at the Rwandan Defence Ministry, have requested special measures to protect Bernard Ntuyahaga. In an urgent request to the ICTR, they said circumstances surrounding the death of the ten Belgian peacekeepers would be a key element in the trial of their client. Bagosora is currently awaiting trial at the ICTR. According to weekly journal on the ICTR Ubutabera, Bagosora's defence lawyers have asked ICTR President Judge Nevanethem Pillay to order Tanzania "not to extradite or expel Mr. Bernard Ntuyahaga to any country, and especially not to Rwanda". They have also asked the ICTR's witness protection unit to take "all necessary steps [. . . ] to ensure the safety and security of Bernard Ntuyahaga until he appears as a witness in the trial of Mr. Bagosora". Bagosora's lawyers say that Ntuyahaga is in potential danger, and that if he is extradited to Rwanda it is "extremely unlikely" that he would be able to come and testify in the Bagosora case. BN/AT/JC/FH (NU§0730e)