Arusha, June 9th, 2000 (FH) Judges at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) will hear the closing arguments of parties in the case against former mayor of Mabanza (Kibuye prefecture, western Rwanda) Ignace Bagilishema from July 10th. Bagilishema, 45, is charged with seven counts, including genocide, complicity to commit genocide and crimes against humanity.

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But testifying in his own defence for the last week, Bagilishema maintained that he had no part in the 1994 genocide and that he rather sought to protect Tutsis. "I gave myself, body and soul to save lives," Bagilishema said, adding that his wife was in constant fear that he would be killed. When asked why he fled the country in July 1994 despite the fact that the French operation [Turquoise] to restore peace had already arrived, Bagilishema said that the war front was already in Mabanza. He noted that there was shelling between members of the rebel Tutsi Rwandan Patriotic Front [RPF] and the Rwandan government forces, and that it was not safe to stay. At one point in the cross-examination, the usually calm Bagilishema took exception to questions from prosecutor Charles Adeogun Phillips. Phillips asked Bagilishema if indeed the roadblock set up near the communal office was meant to check movements of RPF troops. Bagilishema has testified that he was unable to stop the violence because he had only a handful of policmen. " How were they going to stop an attack from RPF? " Phillips asked, implying that on the contrary the barriers were meant to hunt unarmed Tutsi civilians. In response, an angry Bagilishema reiterated that the barriers were there to check RPF infiltration, as its front advanced. He said his lack of means did not mean that he was not required to ensure non-infiltration. " If you are criticising me and what I did, that is easy to do because you are here," said the defendant. "I wonder what would have happened if you were in my shoes! Maybe you would have advised me to cross my arms and sit and do nothing. . maybe you think I should have sat and done nothing because I did not have the means, but that is not what a man would have done, especially if he is a responsible man. "Bagilishema further added that as evidence of infiltration, his men had indeed caught persons with mines and grenades trying to cross the roadblock. At the close of his testimony, Bagilishema shed tears as he reiterated once more at that he never personally killed or ordered anyone killed. "I did all I could do, given the means at my disposal," Bagilishema told the court. "I am sorry I didn't have enough means to save the whole of my commune. I never killed or sought to kill anyone in my whole life. "Bagilishema's trial began on September 27th, 1999. The prosecution has brought 18 witnesses and the defence 15, including Bagilishema himself. The case is being heard by Trial Chamber One of the ICTR, composed of Norwegian judgeErik Mose presiding; Judge Mehmet Güney of Turkey and Judge Asoka de Zoysa Gunawardana of Sri Lanka. MK/JC/FH (BS%0609e)