Arusha, November 7, 2001 (FH) - Judges of the International CriminalTribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) on Wednesday authorized former Rwandan mayor andgenocide suspect Laurent Semanza to testify in his own defence. Semanza's defence team won approval to add the accused to their list ofdefence witnesses, despite opposition from prosecution.

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The accused'sdefence lawyers are Charles Taku of the US and Cameroon, and Sadikou Alaoof Benin. Prosecutor Chile Eboe Osuji (Canada/Nigeria) opposed the defence requeston grounds that Semanza should not have been present during the testimoniesof other defence witnesses. Defence countered that the accused had a rightto be present at all stages of his trial. The defence also asked on Wednesday to have admitted the report of aforensic expert that had been withdrawn by the prosecution. Semanza'slawyers said it contained exculpatory evidence that the court should takeinto account. Prosecution maintained that the defence should initiate moves of its own tobring the witness. The court will deliberate before handing down a decision. This case began in October 2000 before the ICTR's Trial Chamber Three,composed of judgesYakov Ostrovsky of Russia (presiding), Lloyd George Williams of Saint Kittsand Nevis, andPavel Dolenc of Slovenia. Defence had presented 17 witnesses when the trialadjourned on Wednesday. The 18th was expected to start testifying on Monday. Semanza, a former mayor of Bicumbi (Kigali prefecture in central Rwanda),is charged with 14 counts of genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide andcrimes against humanity, including rape and persecution in Bicumbi andGikoro communes. He has pleaded not guilty. Semanza, 57, was mayor of Bicumbi for 20 years. At the time of the 1994genocide in Rwanda he had been nominated a member of parliament of thepresidential party MRND for the transitional assembly to be set up underthe Arusha peace accord. However, former president Juvénal Habyarimana'sdeath on April 6th, 1994, the war and genocide which followed preventedimplementation of the Arusha agreement. AT/JC/FH (SE1107E)