Arusha, November 28, 2001 (FH) - The genocide trial of former Rwandan mayor Laurent Semanza was on Wednesday adjourned until next year before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), after the hearing of the 23rd defence witness. The court said the case would resume around January 21st-22nd.

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Semanza is scheduled to testify in his own defence when the case resumes, according his counsel Charles Taku of Cameroon/USA and co-counsel Sadikou Alao of Benin. Three expert witnesses are also set to testify before thedefence closes its case. The three experts are Pascal Ndengejeho, who was Minister for Information in Rwanda from 1992 to 1993; Antoine Nyetera, a Tutsi of royal origin; and a French forensic expert. Semanza, a former mayor of Bicumbi (Kigali prefecture in central Rwanda) is charged with 14 counts of genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide and crimes against humanity, including rape and persecution in Bicumbi and Gikoro communes. He has pleaded not guilty. Prosecution maintains that he was involved in massacres of Tutsis during the 1994 genocide. Semanza's defence say he is a "victim of political vendetta". A number of defence witnesses testified that Semanza was a "good leader who did a lot for his people". The 23rd fact witness for the defence, dubbed "JAM" to shield her identity, was a Rwandan woman who testified in English. This is unusual, as most of the fact witnesses from Rwanda testify in Kinyarwanda. Most of her testimony was heard in closed session. The case is before Trial Chamber Three of the ICTR, composed of judges Yakov Ostrovsky of Russia (presiding), Lloyd George Williams of St. Kitts and Nevis and Pavel Dolenc of Slovenia. The Chamber is also hearing the genocide trial of three former leaders from Cyangugu, south-west Rwanda. SW/JC/DO/FH (SE1128e)