Arusha, March 20, 2002 (FH) - Former Rwandan Minister André Ntagerura accompanied the body of former Burundian President Cyprien Ntaryamira to Burundi on April 10th, 1994, his wife Bongwa Leoncie told the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) on Monday. Ntaryamira was killed together with former Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana when their plane was brought down on April 6th, 1994.

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Leoncie was testifying as the twenty-second defence witness for Ntagerura. Ntagerura is one of three accused in the 'Cyangugu trial' that groups him, former Cyangugu prefect Emmanuel Bagambiki and former commander of the Karambo military barracks in Cyangugu, Samuel Imanishimwe. Prosecution maintains that all three are guilty of massacres of Tutsis in Cyangugu during the 1994 genocide. They have pleaded not guilty. Bongwa told the court that on the night of April 6th, 1994 Ntagerura got a telephone call informing him of the attack on the president's plane. She added that later that night, the family fled from their Kimuhurura home in Kigali to a nearby camp housing Presidential guards. Ntagerura's family including his three children, his wife and her mother fled in two vehicles with the assistance of two gendarmes, the court heard. Bongwa said the family moved to the French Embassy on April 8th and that on April 9th, Ntagerura went for the swearing in of the interim government, leaving the rest of the family behind. "Yes he was a member of that government," Leoncie replied to Ntagerura's defence counsel Canadian, Benôit Henry. The witness added that on April 10th, Ntagerura accompanied the former Burundian president's body. "The body was taken to Bujumbura," said Leoncie. However in earlier testimonies some prosecution witnesses had stated that Ntagerura was in Cyangugu during attacks in April. In September a prosecution witness "LAI" said that Ntagerura distributed weapons in Cyangugu. Separately, another witness "LAH" told the court that the former Minister told a group of attackers in Cyangugu "to forward identity cards of the deceased Tutsi to a local trader". He claimed that Ntagerura said that the identity cards were to assist in ensuring that the people "were systematically eliminated. "And the first defence witness for Ntagerura dubbed "DBH" testified that the former minister was not in Cyangugu between January 1st and April 6th, 1994. He said that Ntagerura's visit to Cyangugu would have not have taken place unnoticed because whenever he was around people always went to meet him. In her testimony, Bongwa said that when Ntagerura left for Bujumbura, the rest of them tried to leave Kigali for Cyangugu in vain. An official from the French Embassy took them on April 12th to Kanombe airport and on April 14th, they were flown to Bukavu (ex-Zaire) and received by an official from the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), she said. According to Bongwa, after some negotiations, they were taken to Cyangugu (which borders Bukavu) and some people stayed at the Hotel du Lac and others including her family stayed at the Home St. Francois d'Assise. She said the family stayed there up to May 19th, 1994 and that she saw her husband on May 15th, whom she had last seen in April. She said that on May 19th, they left for Kinshasa via Bukavu and Goma where they stayed until April 26th, 1995. During cross-questioning by defence counsel Tanzanian Holo Makwaia, Bongwa said she did not hear of the killings on April 7th, 1994 in Kigali including that of former Prime Minister Agathe Uwilingiyimana, because she stayed inside the embassy. The witness also said that she was not aware that Tutsis were being killed or why they were being killed. However, she added that later from the radio and other reports she heard that some Tutsis and Hutus were killed because some were RPF accomplices and others opponents of the president. Bongwa also said she did not know who was responsible for massacres in Cyangugu and that she heard most details on the events there while in exile. The prosecution suggested that found it difficult to accept that her husband could be accused of the atrocities committed in Cyangugu she replied: "I simply do not accept it. "Ntagerura was the Minister of Transport and Communications in the interim government of 1994. He is said to have allowed or authorised the use of government vehicles, specifically buses for the transportation of Interahamwe militia, as well as for the transportation of arms and ammunitions to Cyangugu prefecture. The hearing continues with the testimony of the twenty-third witness, 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. SW/FH (CY-0520e)