Arusha, November 15th, 2002 (FH) - The genocide trial of former Rwandan minister of Information, Eliézer Niyitegeka, before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) closed on Friday after hearings of 12 prosecution witnesses and 11 witnesses for the defence. The trial, which opened in June and has been running alternately with other trials in the same chamber, has been one of the fastest in the history of the court.

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Both parties are scheduled to present closing arguments on February 27th and 28th, 2003. The chamber will then begin deliberations on the judgement. Niyitegeka,50, is on trial for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes mainly in connection with killings in his home area of the Bisesero hills in the West Rwanda region of Kibuye. He was minister of information in the "government of rescuers" that reigned over the period of the genocide. About One million ethnic Tutsis and politically moderate Hutus were killed in the 1994 genocide according to an official census by the government of Rwanda. Niyitegeka's defence team has mainly presented a case of alibi. Most defence witnesses have testified that Niyitegeka wasn't in Kibuye during the period in which he allegedly committed the crimes in his indictment. Prosecution witnesses place him at the centre of a machinery mobilising and transporting the notorious Interahamwe militias to kill Tutsis in the Bisesero hills. He also allegedly raped a Tutsi girl. According to the indictment, when the victim got out, the accused shot her. Defence witnesses have testified of Niyitegeka as "a gentleman that would never have involved himself in such acts". A veteran Rwandan politician testifying recently for Niyitegeka characterised allegations against the later, and more so the rape charges, as "ridiculous". "Unless you didn't know Eliezér", he said. Niyitegeka was arrested on February 9th, 1999, in the Kenyan capital Nairobi, and was transferred three days later to the UN detention facility in Arusha,Tanzania. He pleaded not guilty to his first indictment on April 15th, 1999. He also pleaded not guilty to an amended indictment on July 4th, 2000. Niyitigeka is defended by Irish lawyers Sylvia Hannah Geraghty and Feagal Kavanag. The prosecution team is headed by Ken Fleming of Australia. It also includes Melinda Pollard of the US. GG/FH(1115e)