Arusha, September 19, 2001 (FH) - Seventh Day Adventist pastor Elizaphan Ntakirutimana led an armed attack on Tutsi refugees at a church complex during the 1994 genocide, a witness told the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) on Wednesday. Some 5,000 Tutsis died in this attack, according to ICTR prosecutors.

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Elizaphan Ntakirutimana is being jointly tried with his son Gerard. At the time of the genocide in Rwanda, Elizaphan was pastor of the Seventh Day Adventist church at Mugonero in the west Rwandan province of Kibuye. Gerard was a doctor at the infirmary which lay in the same complex. The two have pleaded not guilty to five counts of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. The third prosecution witness, dubbed "MM" to protect his identity, is a former employee at the Mugonero mission complex. He told the court that he had survived the attack by hiding among dead bodies. "On the morning of April 16th, 1994, he (Pastor Elizaphan) came in a pick-up car with five or six gendarmes," MM told the court. "The gendarmes then began shooting into the refugees. "MM told the court that he had lost his father, wife and daughter in the attack. The Tutsis, comprising mostly women and children, had taken refugee at the complex following the April 6th downing of the president's plane that sparked the genocide. Prior to the attack, MM told the court, several Tutsi Seventh Day Adventist pastors, including his own father, had written a letter to Elizaphan begging him to ask the mayor to provide protection. "We wish to inform you that we have heard that tomorrow we will be killed with our families," reads part of the letter, as produced by prosecution. "We therefore request you to intervene on our behalf and talk with the mayor. "Witness MM broke down in tears when the prosecutor provided him with a copy of the letter to identify. The witness further testified that at the time of the attack, water and telephone connections serving the complex had been cut on Doctor Gerard's orders. "The hospital no longer operated…Gerard knew he was simply punishing the Tutsi refugees," MM told the court. MM continued his testimony under cross-examination from the pastor's defence counsel, former US Attorney General Ramsey Clark. Two other witnesses have testified since the trial began on Tuesday. Prosecution investigators Upendva Bhagel of India and Antonio Maria Lucassen of the Netherlands both testified on photographs, sketches and a video of alleged crime scenes mentioned in the indictment against the two accused. The prosecution is scheduled to bring a total of 24 witnesses. The case is before Trial Chamber One of the ICTR, composed of judges Erik Mose of Norway (presiding), Navanethem Pillay of South Africa and new judge Andrésia Vaz of Senegal. GG/JC/PHD/FH (NK0919E)