Arusha, September 18, 2002 (FH) - Founder member of 'hate-radio', Radio-télévision Libre des Mille collines (RTLM), Ferdinand Nahimana, began testifying in his defence at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda on Wednesday. Nahimana, 50, is accused of using the media in Rwanda to spread anti-Tutsi propaganda before and during the 1994 genocide.

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An estimated One million ethnic Tutsi and politically moderate Hutus were killed in the genocide. Dressed in a two-button grey suit, a blue shirt and a checked tie, the composed former history professor first denied prosecution accusations that he had been a member of extremist anti-Tutsi organizations during his school days. Nahimana characterized as "rubbish" the testimony of a prosecution witness that he had founded an organisation called the Association for the defence of Bakiga in the late 60's. "First of all the term 'Bakiga' had not yet surfaced in Rwandan vocabulary at the time", he said. Bakiga is a term used to refer to people originating from the north of Rwanda. He also denied being a founder member of an anti-Tutsi organizations called Comité du Salut (Committee of Salvation). The organization is widely believed to have been behind attacks on Tutsi students in the early 70's. Prosecution witnesses have testified that the aim of the organization was to "clean out" Tutsis from the education system. The prosecution has accused Nahimana of being one of the leaders of an attack on Tutsi students of the National University of Rwanda on February 12th, 1974 allegedly planned by Comité du Salut. At the time, Nahimana was Secretary General of the University students' association, AGNR. Evidence by the prosecution placed Nahimana on the streets of the South West Rwanda university town of Butare chanting anti-Tutsi slogans during the attack. Nahimana denied any connection with the organization and its activities. "We were so afraid", he told court. "I would not have ventured into the streets", he added. He also said that he had never "reasoned in terms of ethnicity". Nahimana is jointly on trial with two other former media personalities similarly charged with using the media to alienate 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 board at RTLM, Jean Bosco Barayagwiza. Nahimana continues his testimony before Trial Chamber One of the ICTR composed Judges Navanethem Pillay of South Africa (Presiding), Erik Møse of Norway and Asoka de Zoysa Gunawardana of Sri Lanka. GG/FH(ME-0918e)