Arusha, December 4th, 2000 (FH) - The trial of former Rwandan mayor Laurent Semanza resumed on Monday before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), with the testimony of the fifth prosecution witness, the independent news agency Hirondelle reports. Proceedings continued despite protests from the defendant that he was suffering from dental problems.

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The Chambers adjourned the proceedings briefly, awaiting a medical decision as to whether the accused could sit through the hearing or not. An ICTR medical officer who has been treating Semanza was summoned to court and told the judges the problem "was not acute". Prosecution witness "VP", named as such to protect his identity, began his testimony shortly afterwards. The witness told the court that Semanza distributed weapons that were used to kill Tutsis during the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. Semanza, 56, a former mayor of Bicumbi, is charged with 14 counts of genocide and crimes against humanity related to massacres of Tutsis in the communes of Gikoro and Bicumbi, central Rwanda, in 1994. At the time of the genocide, Semanza was a nominated member of parliament of the MRND party, and allegedly very influential. VP said that soon after the death of President Juvenal Habyarimana was announced, a meeting by Bicumbi commune officials told the population that Tutsis had killed their president and they should prepare to avenge his death. By April 10th, 1994, said VP, two people had been killed in Bicumbi sector and houses belonging to Tutsi had been torched. He added that many Tutsis fled to the Kabuya Chapel and Mulire Hills in BIcumbi. Witness VP’s testimony continues on Monday afternoon. The court earlier dismissed five written defence motions saying they were "frivolous and constitute an abuse of the system". The court also ordered the Registry not to pay the fees and costs for the preparation of the motions. The motions were on the translation of some statements from English to French, acquisition of certain audiotapes, and the authenticity of the testimony of protected witness VN . The court advised that such matters could be dealt with orally to save time. The defendant is appearing before Trial Chamber Three of the ICTR, composed of judges Yakov Ostrovsky of Russia (presiding), Lloyd George Williams of Jamaica and Pavel Dolenc of Slovenia. SW/GG/JC/FH(SE%1204e)