Arusha, October 18, 2001 (FH) - Genocide suspect and Seventh Day Adventist pastor Elizaphan Ntakirutimana had "spiritual and moral" authority to avert or reduce the magnitude of 1994 massacres in his region of western Rwanda, a witness told the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) on Thursday. "As a spiritual leader who wielded great influence over his people and was in communication with political authorities, Pastor Ntakirutimana had the capacity to stop the killings," protected prosecution witness "QQ" told the court.

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Seventh Day Adventist Elizaphan Ntakirutimana is being jointly tried with his son Gerard Ntakirutimana. At the time of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, Elizaphan was pastor of the Seventh Day Adventist church at Mugonero in Kibuye. Gerard was a medical 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. An estimated 800,000 Tutsis and politically moderate Hutus were killed during the 1994 genocide. Witness QQ, a former employee of Mugonero hospital, told the court that he had in 1995 participated in the exhumation and re-burial of between 6,000 and 7,000 Tutsi people killed in Mugonero church complex during the genocide. Lawyers for Pastor Ntakirutimana and Doctor Ntakirutimana contested the figures, suggesting that the witness had exaggerated. The Prosecutor alleges that the Ntakirutimanas are responsible for the killings of about 6,000 Tutsis that had taken refugee at the Mugonero complex. The court adjourned after witness QQ's testimony, as prosecution said the next scheduled witness was unable to testify because she was ill and had been admitted to hospital in Arusha. Presiding judge Navanethem Pillay of South Africa said the trial would continue on Friday if the witness had recovered. Judge Pillay was presiding in the short-term absence of Judge Mose of Norway, who normally presides in this case before Trial Chamber One. The other judge in this trial is Andrésia Vaz of Senegal. ICTR Rules provide that a trial can proceed with only two judges for up to five days. GG/JC/PHD/FH (NK1018e)