Arusha, June 18, 2002 (FH) - The prosecution in the case of former Bicumbi mayor Laurent Semanza on Monday in its closing arguments asked the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) to reject the accused's defence that he has an alibi covering the key period . Semanza was mayor of Bicumbi, Kigali rural province, in central Rwanda.

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He is charged with 14 counts of genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide and crimes against humanity, including rape and persecution, in his Bicumbi commune and nearby Gikoro commune. He has pleaded not guilty. The prosecution maintains that Semanza committed some of the crimes between April 9th and 13th, 1994. But Semanza, who gave testimony on his own behalf, states that he left his residence in Bicumbi on the night of April 8th. In his closing arguments, prosecutor Chile Eboe-Osuji of Nigeria and Canada stated that Semanza's defence counsel did not notify the prosecution of the accused's alibi, on time at the start of the trial in October 2000. He added that the accused did not develop the defence of alibi until after evidence given by French sociology professor Andre Guichaoua who testified in 2001. In his evidence in April 2001, Guichaoua said that Semanza had been seen in another town, Gitarama, "on May 20th or around that date," and that he took part in meetings of the interim government, which had taken refuge there on April 11th, 1994. Guichaoua, who testified again in rebuttal, on the issue of the potential alibi, said that the fact that Semanza was seen in Gitarama did not mean he could not have gone to Bicumbi. Osuji underlined that before the evidence of Guichaoua, who, according to him, "inspired the defence", no witness had been cross-questioned in a manner to suggest that the accused would present an alibi as his defence. Counsel Charles Taku of Cameroon and the USA and Sadikou Alao of Benin are defending Semanza. They maintain that their client is a "victim of political vendetta". In his arguments Osuji recalled the massacres and violence witnessed in the sectors of Muyumbu, Gahengeri, Mwulire, at the mosque in Mabare and thechurch in Musha, between April 8th and 18th, 1994. He maintained that Semanza orchestrated, executed and supported the massacres. Osuji said that these acts form the basis for the fourteen counts Semanza is facing and for which he has to be judged by the ICTR. Osuji also urged that the court sentence him for each count and to find him guilty on all counts. He asked the court not to consider the inconsistencies between the written statements and the testimonies before the court by witnesses, saying that these factors were not enough to reject the testimonies as not credible. The prosecutor said it was the collective evidence presented that would count. Semanza was mayor of Bicumbi for more than twenty years and later became a businessman. In 1994, he was proposed as Member of Parliament by the former Presidential MRND party, as a representative at the national assembly of the transition government which was associated with the Rwandan Armed Forces (FPR) then in power. The prosecution alleges that Semanza was still "very influential politically" in 1994 in Bicumbi even though he was no longer mayor. Osuji stressed that ifhe did not exert de facto authority then he exerted de jure authority. The defence started their closing arguments this morning, before Trial Chamber Three of the ICTR, composed of Judges Yakov Ostrovsky of Russia (presiding), Lloyd George Williams of St. Kitts and Nevis and Pavel Dolenc of Slovenia. The hearing started on October 16th, 2000. GA/SW/JA/FH (SE-0618e)