Arusha, May 7, 2002 (FH) - Defence lawyers for former Bicumbi Mayor and genocide suspect Laurent Semanza will appeal a decision by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) denying them leave to call re-joinder witnesses, reports the independent news agency, Hirondelle. The trial was scheduled to resume on Tuesday, May 7th, with rejoinder evidence after the prosecution concluded rebuttal evidence on April 25th.

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But ICTR's trial Chamber Three which is hearing the case, made a decision on April 30th, denying the defence leave to call rejoinder witnesses. The Chamber ruled that the defence does not point to any new and unanticipated evidence or facts led by prosecution in rebuttal. The Chamber said that briefly the witnesses were expected to testify about two main subject areas: to reinforce the alibi of the accused and to challenge the credibility of the prosecutor's rebuttal witnesses. "Examination of the anticipated testimonies reveals that none of these (defence) witnesses could qualify as a rejoinder witness," said the Chamber in its written decision. According to Semanza's lead counsel Charles Taku of Cameroon and USA, defence filed at the start of May, an urgent motion, asking the trial Chamber to review its decision on the rejoinder issue. Taku said the defence received no word on the urgent motion but instead received from the Registry, a Scheduling Order dated May 2nd. "We are going to contest this, we are going to the Appeals Chamber," said Taku. The defence intended to call thirteen witnesses for rejoinder evidence in response to the three prosecution rebuttal witnesses. Prosecutor Chile Eboe Osuji had scheduled six witnesses in rebuttal evidence regarding Semanza's alibi but only three actually testified. Semanza was mayor of Bicumbi, Kigali rural province in central Rwanda. 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 proposed witnesses for rejoinder evidence included former Minister André Ntagerura, Emmanuel Ndindabahizi, Edouard Karemera and Aloys Ntabakuze (all facing charges before the Tribunal). Others included witnesses using pseudo-names for protective measures. According to the Chamber the facts raised by the defence to challenge the credibility of the rebuttal witnesses relate only to collateral issues. "Thus the Chamber is of the view that it would serve no legitimate purpose to hear these witnesses," stated the written decision. In the Scheduling Order, parties are asked to present closing arguments not later than June 17, 2002. Each party is required to file a final trial brief with the Chamber not later than five days prior to this date. This case is 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. SW/FH (SE-0507e)