Arusha, April 18, 2002 (FH) - The prosecution in the trial of former Bicumbi mayor, Laurent Semanza, has withdrawn one witness who was scheduled to give rebuttal evidence. It remained uncertain on Thursday whether another witness would come from Rwanda to testify before the International Criminal Tribunal forRwanda (ICTR), next week.

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Prosecutor Chile Eboe Osuji of Canada and Nigeria withdrew the witness, known as "XXL", at the end of testimony from the first rebuttal witness, known as "DCH. " He explained that the other witness from Rwanda is expected in Arusha on Monday if "problems" in getting witnesses to come to Arusha are solved. When the defence closed their case in February, the prosecution indicated they would call rebuttal witnesses to challenge Semanza's alibi claim that he left Bicumbi commune, Kigali Rural Province in Rwanda on 9th April 1994. Semanza testified in his own defence as the last defence witness. Semanza was mayor of Bicumbi commune, Kigali Rural Province in central Rwanda for over 20 years before he was replaced in 1993. He was arrested in Cameroon in March 1996. He is charged with 14 counts of genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide and crimes against humanity, including rape and persecution in Bicumbi and Gikoro communes. He has pleaded not guilty. The prosecution intended to call six rebuttal witnesses but two, known as "XXL" and "XXK", were not available to testify this week. The prosecutor asked for "XXL" to be struck out of the witness list. The prosecution maintains that issues in rebuttal arise from matters raised by defence witnesses, but Semanza's lawyers had objected saying the prosecution was attempting to introduce new elements in the case. The first rebuttal witness, known only as "DCH" for protection of identity, completed his evidence on Thursday. The others scheduled to testify are Kenyan forensic expert Antipas Nyanjwa, Cameroonian Prosecutor Messina Teme and an expert witness in the prosecution case, Professor André Guichaoua. Nyanjwa is expected to testify on Thursday. In his testimony, witness DCH challenged Semanza's alibi saying the former mayor was present during an attack on Tutsis taking refuge in a church in Gikoro commune. The attack allegedly took place on April 15th, 16th and 17th, according to DCH. DCH's testimony provoked heated debate between the prosecutor and Semanza's defence lawyers Charles Taku of Cameroon and USA and Sadikou Alao of Benin due to the many objections raised by both parties. According to the prosecution, Semanza was involved in planning the killing of Tutsis, training of militiamen and distribution of weapons in his commune. Semanza allegedly committed the crimes between April 9th and 13th, 1994. However, during his testimony, Semanza claimed he left Bicumbi on April 9th. A number of defence witnesses corroborated this evidence. 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. The trial resumes on Monday with a status conference between the judges, the prosecution and the defence. SW/FH (SE-0418e)