Arusha, June 12, 2001 (FH) Defence lawyers for former Rwandan Transport Minister and genocide suspect André Ntagerura have strongly denounced allegations against their investigator as an attempt to destabilize the preparation of their client's defence at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR). "All the press, both Rwandan and international, jumped to the conclusion that Mr.

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Malien Habyarimana, defence investigator for André Ntagerura (…) would be the second (ICTR) investigator to be prosecuted for complicity in genocide during the events of 1994," says a press release signed by Ntagerura's Canadian lead counsel Benoit Henry, French co-counsel Hamuli Rety and assistant Andrea Valdivi. "Ntagerura's lawyers wish to denounce such slanderous allegations which aim only to destabilize the preparation of the defence by attacking his investigator just as the prosecution has almost finished presenting its case," the lawyers continue. Their press release comes after a protected witness last Wednesday told the court that investigator Habyarimana was Ntagerura's Director-General at the Rwandan Transport Ministry during the 1994 genocide and that there were "links" between the two. Witness "MF", named as such to protect his identity, also claimed that Habyarimana had been stalking him (the witness). The prosecution went ahead to state that there were "elements indicated between the said person and Ntagerura". Prosecutor Richard Karegyesa of Uganda then asked the court to order defence to respect witness protection measures. However, the court rejected the motion, saying it was notsubstantive and that prosecution had handled the issue in an "inappropriate" manner. Ntagerura is being jointly tried with former Cyangugu military commander Samuel Imanishimwe and former Cyangugu prefect Emmanuel Bagambiki. All have pleaded not guilty to charges of genocide and crimes against humanity for their alleged roles in massacres of Tutsis in Cyangugu, southwest Rwanda, during the genocide. A defence investigator for Imanishimwe was arrested last month at the request of the ICTR, after it discovered that he was Samuel Nshamihigo, former deputy prosecutor of Cyangugu. He had been working under an assumed identity. The Tribunal is holding Nshamihigo in provisional detention atthe request of the Prosecutor, who is investigating him for genocide. Rwandan envoy denies lawyers' allegationsIn their press release, Ntagerura's lawyers say that "Mr (Martin) Ngoga, representative of the Rwandan government accredited to the Tribunal, who was very opportunely present at the hearing (mentioning Habyarimana) with his press people, immediately relayed the news to Radio Rwanda, adding that the Prosecutor had alleged that Habyarimana was guilty of intimidating a protected witness". Ngoga, however, told Hirondelle that he was in the court's public gallery like anyone else and that he did not organize local, Rwandan or other journalists to cover any proceedings. "This is a public gallery, where a protected witness is testifying; the presence of journalists in a public hearing is expected. Where do I come in?" he said. Ngoga added that he had not given any media interviews or comments on the issue. Ngoga also said that defence lawyers should not use his name as a "simplistic way of getting out of the problems they find themselves in". The lawyers reiterated their support for their investigator Habyarimana and said they would "do everything to re-establish his honour". They said the prosecution motion was "totally frivolous" and had "demonstrated beyond any possible doubt that there was absolutely no intimidation". However, they said they were "perturbed, sad and frustrated" that the court had not allowed them to respond, so as to "bring to light the erring ways of the Prosecutor". "In fact," said the lawyers in their press release, "the said prosecution witness (MF), protected by the Witness Protection unit, was lodged on June 3, 2001, in the same hotel as several defence counsels and investigators, including Malien Habyarimana who had been there since April 25, 2001. The investigator, whom the protected witness spotted in the public television room of the hotel, had not even had a chance to realize that the latter was present in the hotel. "In a separate message to the media, Habyarimana tells the same story. "The Prosecutor's motion (…) accused the investigator Habyarimana of having visited protected witness MF at the hotel in order to intimidate him," he says. "However, if we are talking about visits, then it was rather Witness MF who visited the investigator Habyarimana, because the latter had been at the hotel since April 25th. "The investigator says that "after seeing Mr. Habyarimana, the witness MF alerted the prosecutor's witness protection services (sic), who moved him to another hotel. It should be said, by the way, that in 1994 the said witness was under Habyarimana's orders". SW/JC/MBR/FH (CY0612e)