Arusha, July 24, 2002 (FH) - Genocide suspect and former Rwandan minister of transport and communications, Andrè Ntagerura, on Wednesday maintained that at the start of the 1994 genocide, he had lost control over state vehicles. The prosecution accuses him of having allowed or authorised the use of government vehicles, specifically buses belonging to the state owned transport company, ONATRACOM, for the transportation of [Interahamwe] militia, as well as the transportation of arms and ammunitions to Cyangugu region during the genocide.

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"From April 6th, 1994, everything went out of control", said Ntagerura during his testimony. "I could not have exercised authority when staff at the ministry had left work", he added. Prosecutor Holo Makwaya of Tanzania then produced a letter signed by Ntagerura dated May 21st, 1994 authorising a minister to acquire a government car. "Did you write and sign this letter", Holo asked Ntagerura. "Yes, but I must stress that this was a special case", said Ntagerura. He said he had done this at the request of a cabinet meeting. Ntagerura is in a joint trial with ex- commander of the Karambo military barracks in Cyangugu, Samuel Imanishimwe and former Cyangugu prefect Emmanuel Bagambiki. Prosecution maintains that all three are guilty of massacres of Tutsis in Cyangugu, southwest of Rwanda, during the genocide. They have pleaded not guilty. Ntagerura held various ministerial portfolios in Rwanda between 1981 and 1994. He is testifying in his defence as the thirty-third witness and is being led in his chief evidence by his lead counsel Canadian Benoit Henry. Ntagerura continues his testimony on Thursday, before ICTR's Trial Chamber Three, composed of judges Lloyd George Williams of St. Kitts and Nevis (presiding), Yakov Ostrovsky of Russia and Pavel Dolenc of Slovenia. GG/DO/FH (CY-0724e)