Arusha, November 26, 2001 (FH) - The trial of former Bicumbi mayor and genocide suspect Laurent Semanza resumed on Monday at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) with the testimony of two defence witnesses. The witness hearings had been adjourned on November 14th after the hearing of nineteen defence witnesses.

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Defence said they were having difficulty bringing witnesses to Arusha. On Monday, protected witnesses "MDB" and "CYS" testified. MDB, a Hutu woman, testified that Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) rebels arrived in her location (name withheld) a week after the death of former President Juvénal Habyarimana on April 6th, 1994. It was the downing of Habyarimana's plane that sparked the genocide of some 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus in less than three months. The Hutu authorities at the time claimed that massacres were spontaneous and inter-ethnic, and that they were provoked by an RPF invasion of Rwanda. MDB told the court that she heard gunshots at night and that she and others fled towards the local commune offices. But people coming from the direction of the commune said it had been "attacked and captured by the Inkontanyi (derogatory term for Tutsis)", MDB told the court. Both MDB and CYS gave part of their testimonies in camera. 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. The hearing continues with cross-examination of CYS, before judges Yakov Ostrovsky of Russia (presiding), Lloyd George Williams of St. Kitts and Nevis and Pavel Dolenc of Slovenia. SW/JC/DO/FH (SE1126e)