Arusha, September 19, 2002 (FH) - Former Rwandan media chief, Ferdinand Nahimana, on trial for genocide at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) on Thursday denied allegations that he was one of the founder members of the Interahamwe militia. The militia is widely believed to have been a major participant in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.

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Nahimana was one of the founder members of 'hate-radio', Radio-télévision Libre des Mille collines (RTLM). He was also a history professor at the National University of Rwanda. He is accused of being one of the 'ideologues' behind the genocide. The Interahamwe (those who attack together) were a youth wing of the then ruling party, MRND. Nahimana was a member of the MRND committee for his home region of Ruhengeri. On his second day on the stand, Nahimana testified that him and Ruhengeri had opposed the establishment of the militia. "I was against the Interahamwe. I have always advocated for peace", he said. He also denied any links with the organisation. Prosecution witnesses have testified that the 52-year-old professor was among the people who drafted a document 'theorizing' the idea of the formation of Interahamwe. Nahimana, who severally referred to himself as a "serious academician, gentleman and scholar", accused the prosecution and its witnesses of 'misrepresenting' the contents of his books and articles on Rwanda. Among others, the prosecutor accuses Nahimana of advocating for the formation of Interahamwe in his article 'A strategy for Victory of Rwanda'. In the article, published in the early 90s, Nahimana recommends the formation of a 'civil defence' system as the solution to Rwandan problems. "My idea was not to form a violent militia", Nahimana told the court before adding, "I wanted a peoples' force composed of people from all groups"Nahimana has also denied prosecution allegations that he had been turned down on a diplomatic position in German because of his anti-Tutsi stance. The prosecution has alleged that Nahimana's appointment as first secretary of the Rwandan embassy in German was cancelled after the German government complained of his human rights record. Nahimana testified that he had personally requested the president for the withdrawal. "I was not turned down", he said. "I decided not to go in the diplomatic field since I preferred to go back to my professional carrier as professor and researcher". Nahimana is jointly on trial with two other former media personalities similarly charged with using the media to incite killings of ethnic Tutsis in Rwanda. The two are former editor-in-chief of the newspaper "Kangura", Hassan Ngeze and founder member of hard-line Hutu party, Coalition pour la defense de la République (CDR) and member of the RTLM board, Jean Bosco Barayagwiza. Nahimana continues to testify before Trial Chamber One of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) composed of Judges Navanethem Pillay of South Africa (Presiding), Erik Møse of Norway and Asoka de Zoysa Gunawardana of Sri Lanka. GG/FH(ME-0919e)