Arusha, October 20, 2001 (FH) - Former Rwandan finance minister Emmanuel Ndindabahizi on Friday pleaded not-guilty to five charges of genocide and crimes against humanity before the UN's International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR). Ndindabahizi, dressed impeccably in dark suit, white shirt and tie, answered calmly as Judge Navanethem Pillay of South Africa asked for his plea on each charge.

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"I plead not-guilty," he answered each time. The former minister is charged with genocide; direct and public incitement to commit genocide; extermination, murder and rape as crimes against humanity. According to the indictment he "was Minister of Finance in the Interim Government of 8 April 1994 from its inception until that government fled Rwanda in mid-July 1994". Some 800,000 Tutsis and politically moderate Hutus were killed during the April to July 1994 genocide in Rwanda. Ndindabahizi is charged mainly in connection with massacres of civilians in his home prefecture of Kibuye, in western Rwanda. He is accused of organizing, inciting and supervising massacres, including making public calls for the killing of Tutsis in general and certain individuals in particular. "Emmanuel Ndindabahizi was not merely influential," says the indictment, "he exercised active control over the soldiers, Interahamwe (Hutu militia), gendarmes, communal police, civilian militia and civilians involved in the attacks against those identified as Tutsi. Emmanuel Ndindabahizi gave instructions to those involved in the attacks and those instructions were obeyed. "On the rape charge, which has been added to the amended indictment, the Prosecutor says that he is "liable for the rapes and indecent assaults committed by those under his effective control". The ex-minister was arrested in Belgium on July 12th this year. He was transferred to the UN Detention Facility (UNDF) in Arusha on September 25th. He first appeared in court on October 9th, represented by a Tanzanian duty counsel, but was given more time to study the indictment before entering a plea. Ndindabahizi is now represented by Pascal Besnier of France, formerly counsel at the ICTR for Rwandan ex-businessman Obed Ruzindana. Ruzindana was sentenced to 25 years imprisonment for genocide in May 1999. This was confirmed on appeal on June 1st this year. JC/PHD/FH (NB1019E)