Arusha, May 6, 2002 (FH) - Genocide suspect and Seventh Day Adventist pastor Elizaphan Ntakirutimana testified in his and his son Gerard Ntakirutimana's defence at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) on Monday. At the time of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, Elizaphan Ntakirutimana, 78 was pastor of the Seventh Day Adventist church mission at Mugonero in Kibuye.

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He is jointly charged with his son Gerald Ntakirutimana, 45. Gerard was a medical doctor at the infirmary which lay in the same complex. The prosecutor, among other accusations, alleges that the two planned and presided over killings of about 6,000 Tutsi refugees in the Mugonero complex on April 16, 2002. An estimated 1,000,000 Tutsis and politically moderate Hutus were killed in the 1994 genocide according to an official census by the government of Rwanda. Asked about his reaction to a letter requesting for help addressed to him by Tutsi refugees at Mugonero complex, Pastor Ntakirutimana broke to tears. "This letter shattered me", he said. "I didn't know how to conduct myself", he added. The letter signed by six Tutsi pastors and a teacher was written the evening before the killings at Mugonero complex. The letter saluting pastor Ntakirutimana as "our dear leader" in part reads: "We would like to inform you that tomorrow we will die with our families. We are requesting you to intervene on our behalf and contact the mayor". The letter concludes saying: "Your intervention will be highly appreciated in the same way Jews were saved by Ester. "The prosecution claims Pastor Ntakirutimana responded saying that it was time for the Tutsis to die. The prosecution alleges that Pastor Ntakirutimana brought in militias and soldiers to kill the refugees. Pastor Ntakirutimana told the court that he had, in the company of Gerard, gone to see the mayor who told them that he couldn't do anything to help. "I then came back home and wrote a letter explaining what had happened and telling them that 'you pastors have not sinned against God and you are in his hands"Pastor Ntakirutimana said that he knew all of the signatories of the letter. He said he had taught some of them in school and had been taught by some. Gerard Ntakirutimana is also scheduled to testify. Pastor Ntakirutimana will continue his testimony on Tuesday before Trial Chamber One of the ICTR, composed of judges Erik Mose of Norway (presiding), Navanethem Pillay of South Africa and judge Andrésia Vaz of Senegal. GG/FH(NT-0506e)