Arusha, November 12th, 2002 (FH) - Genocide suspect and former minister for information Eliézer Niyitegeka was a democrat and an advocate for peace, a veteran Rwandan politician turned businessman told the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda(ICTR) on Tuesday. Sebatware André, 63, told court that from his knowledge of Niyitegeka, he had been shocked by allegations levelled against the later by the ICTR prosecutor.

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"I was even told that he was accused of rape. That is impossible", Sebatware said with a smile. Niyitegeka,50, is on trial for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes in connection with killings in the Bisesero hills in the West Rwanda region of Kibuye. He was minister of information in the "government of salvation" 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. "In his life, killing and theft are things that he couldn't support", said Sebatware. "Unless you didn't know Eliezér", he added. He said that Niyitegeka was a religious son of a pastor that wouldn't have betrayed both his religious and political principles by participating in the massacres. Sebatware also told court that Niyitegeka had made several "pacification messages" over the national radio at the height of the killings in Rwanda. "He wanted to put an end to the war and bring peace to Rwanda", Sebatware said of Niyitegeka. Sebatware held various senior political positions in Rwanda between 1965 and 1985. He then started his own business. He currently lives outside Rwanda. He is wanted by the Rwandan government on charges linked to the genocide. He told court that the charges against him were false and politically motivated. The trial will continue on Wednesday before Trial Chamber One of the ICTR comprising Judges Navanethem Pillay of South Africa (presiding), Erik Møse of Norway and Andresia Vaz of Senegal. GG/FH (NI-1112e)