Arusha, May 5th, 2000 (FH) - UN Prosecutor Carla Del Ponte has authorized French anti-terrorism judge Jean-Louis Brugière to interview Rwandan genocide suspect Hassan Ngeze regarding the 1994 shooting down of the presidential 'plane which sparked the Rwandan genocide. Prosecutor Carla Del Ponte told Hassan Ngeze, currently in detention at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), that Brugière would interview him on May 15th at the headquarters of the ICTR.

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She said he was entitled to have a lawyer present and that the interview would be recorded. It could, she said, be used in future ICTR judicial proceedings. Del Ponte's letter is dated April 27th. In a letter of response, dated May 4th, Ngeze says he received her "offer" with "great pleasure". "I would really like to thank you a lot," he says, "to have understood that I have enough information that can help anybody who wants to know the truth on the 6 April 1994 plane crash. I am convinced that this may be the beginning of the real international justice as regards the Rwandan Crisis. "Ngeze was editor of the extremist newspaper Kangura, accused of inciting ethnic Hutus to kill Tutsis. He is charged with genocide and crimes against humanity and is due to be tried jointly with other members of the so-called "hate media". "As you well know," Ngeze writes to del Ponte, "I published in my newspaper Kangura that there was a plot by RPF [Tutsi rebel army] and its accomplices to assassinate the former Rwandan President Habyarimana. Unfortunately, nobody took this seriously either nationally or internationally. "Ngeze also reminds Del Ponte that: "During my initial appearance in 1997 before the ICTR [. . . ], I suggested the Honourable Judges to reveal the names of persons responsible for the Plane Crash which took the lives of two presidents. However, the latter refused, under the pretence that this was not one of the subjects of the day. "No official investigation has ever been carried out into the shooting down of the former Hutu president's plane, which also killed the former president of Burundi and others including the French crew. The most popular theory to date was that the plane was downed by extremist Hutus opposed to power sharing with the RPF. However, a Canadian newspaper on March 1st leaked a report by a former UN investigator which indicated it could have been the RPF. Tutsi informants had pointed the finger at Paul Kagame, now the current president of Rwanda, although the information was never corroborated. In the wake of the leak, the report has been sent to the ICTR, whose President has put it under seal. Defence lawyers are demanding that it be disclosed to them. Last month, an RPF defector now living in the United States, Jean-Pierre Mugabe, issued a declaration naming Kagame and other RPF members as the authors of the attack. JC/FH (RW%0505e)