Arusha, October 10, 2001 (FH) - The trial of former Rwandan mayor Laurent Semanza was on Wednesday adjourned to October 22nd, after the testimony of a sixth defence witness. All ICTR cases have been suspended for at least a week to allow Tribunal judges to attend a seminar in Ireland with their colleagues from the International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia (ICTY).

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As Semanza's trial adjourned, the court rejected a defence appeal for more time to present witnesses. Lead counsel Charles Taku (Cameroon/US) said some of the defence witnesses were sitting final examinations in December, one had just given birth and was recuperating, some had changed their residential addresses, and another had a dying spouse. However, the court said that defence had had enough time to prepare since the prosecution finished its case last April, and that none of the defence arguments were convincing enough to postpone the trial. Taku said the court's decision would have "serious implications" for the defence. He said the defence could not be blamed because some of the issues were beyond their control. Witness cross-questionedThe sixth defence witness, dubbed "KM" to protect her identity, completed her testimony on Wednesday, after cross-questioning by the prosecution. The accused Semanza, 57, is a former mayor of Bicumbi, in Kigali Rural prefecture, central Rwanda. He is charged with 14 counts of genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide and crimes against humanity including rape and persecution. The charges relate to massacres of Tutsis in Bicumbi and Gikoro communes during the 1994 genocide. He has pleaded not guilty. KM had earlier told the court that pro-Tutsi Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) guerillas killed refugees in Muyumbu sector of Bicumbi during the 1994 genocide, and burned down the camp where they were sheltering. On Wednesday, however, she said she had only been told by fleeing refugees that it was the RPF. KM reiterated that Semanza was a good man and a benevolent mayor who did not harass his political opponents. The case is before the ICTR's Trial Chamber Three, composed of judges Yakov Ostrovsky of Russia (presiding), Lloyd George Williams of St. Kitts and Nevis and Pavel Dolenc of Slovenia. SW/JC/FH (SE1010e)