Arusha, May 24th, 2000 (FH) - A defence witness told the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) on Wednesday that former mayor of Mabanza (Kibuye prefecture, western Rwanda) Ignace Bagilishema was not present at sites where he is accused of having participated in massacres in mid-April 1994. The twelfth witness for the defence said he had not seen the accused at the Home Saint-Jean complex or at Gatwaro stadium in Kibuye town between April 17th and 19th, 1994, when massacres took place.

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The witness also said he had not seen Bagilishema's vehicle at the sites of the alleged crimes. According to his indictment, "on 18 April 1994, Ignace Bagilishema, acting in concert with others [. . . ], brought to Gatwaro stadium the Gendarmerie Nationale, communal police, Interahamwe and armed civilians and directed them to attack the people seeking refuge there. In addition, Ignace Bagilishema, on 18 and 19 April 1994, personally attacked and killed persons seeking refuge at Gatwaro stadium, Kibuye town". The witness, dubbed "CP" to protect his identity, explained that he had seen attackers entering Kibuye town and had watched the April 17th attack on Home Saint-Jean and Kibuye church from a distance. He said he also crossed the attackers' path at Gatwaro stadium on April 18th, 1994, as he was returning from the nearby hospital, and that the accused was not among them. " I knew the vehicle of Mabanza commune, a dark blue Hilux, and I had known Bagilishema since he first became mayor, I would know him in any guise, and I tell you I did not see him that day," Witness CP told the court. "I did not see his office car, in fact I didn't see any vehicles. "CP, a 30-year old Hutu and former civil servant in Kibuye prefecture, said that the attackers were "Abakiga" [northerners], together with "some local thugs". Bagilishema is defended by French defence counsel François Roux and Mauritanian co-counsel Maroufa Diabira. A thirteenth defence witness was due to be heard on Thursday morning, but the defence team said he had fallen ill and would no longer be brought to the court. They also said that one of their witnesses had "disappeared" in Rwanda and that others were afraid to testify for security reasons. The defence team asked the court to take into account the written statements of these witnesses, but the court has not yet rendered its decision on this point. . Bagilishema is charged with genocide and crimes against humanity. He has pleaded not-guilty to all charges. His trial started on September 27th, 1999. The defence originally said it planned to present the court with 20 witnesses. BN/AT/JC/FH (BS%0524E )