Arusha, August 20, 2002 (FH) - Former Minister for Higher Education and genocide suspect Jean de Dieu Kamuhanda on Tuesday told the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) that he was not an influential person in Gikomero commune, at the start of his testimony in his own defence. The prosecution maintains he committed genocide crimes in his native Gikomero commune (Kigali province, central Rwanda).

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But Kamuhanda told the court: "I was not an influential member in Gikomero, I was just an inhabitant just like the rest, nothing more nothing less," Kamuhanda said. Kamuhanda a former Minister for Higher Education in the interim government, was initially charged with nine counts including conspiracy to commit genocide, 'genocide, complicity in genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, including rape and murder. Kamuhanda has denied all charges. He will now face eight counts. Prior to the start of his testimony, the Chamber entered a judgement of acquittal with respect to the count of conspiracy to commit genocide. Kamuhanda's defence presented an urgent motion Monday asking that the counts of conspiracy and rape be dropped. In its decision, the Chamber stated that "having considered the evidence provided by the prosecution on count 1 (conspiracy) […] the Chamber is not satisfied that the evidence is sufficient to sustain a conviction on the charge of Conspiracy to Commit Genocide. "However it rejected the defence motion to acquit Kamuhanda of the count on rape (as a crime against humanity). The decision said in part: "The Chamber notes that both the Defence and Prosecution agree that the evidence adduced in support of this count is hearsay and that hearsay evidence is admissible under the Rules. "In his testimony, Kamuhanda, 49, was led in his chief evidence by his lead counsel Aicha Conde of Guinea, and gave details on his education social and political background. According to the prosecution, Kamuhanda had family ties in Gikomero commune. "During the month of April 1994 he supervised killings in the area. On several occasions he personally distributed firearms, grenades and machetes to civilian militia in Kigali-Rural for the purpose of killing all the Tutsi and fighting the FPR (Rwandan Patriotic Front)," reads his indictment. He continues with his testimony on Wednesday before ICTR's Trial Chamber Two composed of Judges William Hussein Sekule of Tanzania (presiding), ArletteRamaroson of Madagascar and Winston Churchill Matanzima Maqutu of Lesotho. SW/FH (KH-0820e)