Arusha, October 30th, 2002 (FH) - The wife of genocide suspect and ex-media chief, Ferdinand Nahimana, defended him before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) on Wednesday. Laurence Nyirabagenzi, testifying with her face hidden from the public for security reasons, mainly testified in support of Nahimana's several alibis.

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Nahimana is a founder and alleged former controller of "hate-radio", Radio-Télévision Libre des Mille collines (RTLM). He was also a history professor at the National University of Rwanda. He is jointly on trial with two other suspects linked with the media in Rwanda before and during the genocide. The two are: Jean-Bosco Barayagwiza, a former politician, RTLM founder and board member and Hassan Ngeze, former editor of the newspaper "Kangura". The three are primarily accused of using their respective media to incite the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. Nyirabagenzi told the court that between late March 1994 and early April 1994, her husband had been suffering from malaria and gastritis. She said that he had spent most time in bed recovering. Following the April 6th, 1994 fatal plane crash involving the then president, Juvenal Habyarimana, Nyirabagenzi told court, Nahimana, their children and herself fled to the French embassy in the Rwandan capital, Kigali. From the embassy, she said, they were flown first to Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo and finally the Rwandan boarder town of Cyangugu. She said that they got to Cyangugu towards the end of April. Nyirabagenzi further told court that Nahimana only left the premises of the French embassy once. The prosecution contests the position and suggests that Nahimana left the embassy at any time of his choice as he monitored the work of RTLM. Nyirabagenzi also denied prosecution allegations that her husband had been a member of a radical students' organisation in the early 70's called Comité de salut public. The organisation is widely believed to have been behind the killing and harassment of several Tutsi students across Rwanda. The prosecution claims that Nahimana was one of the founders and leaders of that organisation. Nyirabagenzi said that at the time of the attacks on Tutsi students, her husband, then a student of the National University of Rwanda, had hidden two Tutsi students and that this had put Nahimana himself in danger. Trial Chamber One of the ICTR is composed of Judges Navanethem Pillay of South Africa (Presiding), Erik Møse of Norway and Asoka de Zoysa Gunawardana of Sri Lanka. Judge Pillay is presently attending to business at the Security council. GG/CE/FH(ME-1030e)