Arusha, October 2, 2002 (FH) - The defence of genocide suspect, Lt. Samuel Imanishimwe, on Wednesday opened its case at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) describing evidence by prosecution witnesses as "fruits of fertile imagination".

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Imanishimwe, 41, is ex-commander of the Karambo military camp in the South-West Rwanda province of Cyangugu. He is jointly on trial with ex-Transport and Communications Minister André Ntagerura and former Cyangugu prefect Emmanuel Bagambiki. Prosecution maintains that the three are guilty of massacres of ethnic Tutsis in Cyangugu during the 1994 genocide. The three are each charged with several counts of genocide and crimes against humanity. The so-called 'Cyangugu trial' started on September 18th, 2000. The prosecution rested its case on November 21st, 2001. Since then, between several recesses to hear other trials taking place in the same chamber, judges have heard 32 witnesses defending Ntagerura. Ntagerura himself completed his testimony earlier on Wednesday. "The prosecution has failed to adduce enough evidence to prove that Imanishimwe is guilty of these crimes", defence counsel, Marie-Louise Mbida of Cameroon told the court. Explaining "the reality about Imanishimwe", Mbida gave a portrait of a junior military officer whose "position was in no way a position of privilege. " She said "it was a position that was always held by junior officers. ""As a member of the Rwandan army, his primary objective was to defend the country to the best of his ability with the inferiority in both quality and quantity of the men at his disposal", she said. Mbida added that all this was despite the "environment of fear and worries that Imanishimwe found himself". Mbida said that the defence would bring witnesses to prove that Imanishimwe had, contrary to prosecution allegations, never participated in any meeting planning the genocide in Cyangugu. She said that killings in Rwanda had rather been precipitated by "a series of assassinations and crimes committed by the RPF (predominantly Tutsi rebel movement) during its advance on the country. "Furthermore, she said, defence would demonstrate that Imanishimwe had not murdered anybody. "No killings, torture or arrests took place in the Karambo camp", she added. Imanishimwe's defence will on Thursday present the first of some 25 witnesses. This case is before Trial Chamber Three composed of judges Yakov Ostrovsky of Russia, Lloyd George Williams of St. Kitts and Nevis (presiding) and Pavel Dolenc of Slovenia. GG/FH(CY-1002e)