Arusha, April 16, 2002 (FH) - A Rwandan priest and former Rector of Christ-Roi (Christ the King) College in Butare province, Hormisdas Nsengimana on Tuesday pleaded not guilty to four counts of genocide charges before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR). Nsengimana faces four counts including genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide and crimes against humanity for murder and extermination.

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He was born on August 6th, 1954 in Cyanika commune, Gikongoro province in south of Rwanda. "I am a Rwandan, however, currently, I am a refugee," the cleric dressed in a black priest's shirt and jacket with a white collar, told the court. He responded "not guilty" to all four counts. Prosecution alleges that he played a major role in the massacres of Tutsis in Butare region. He is said to be one of the leaders of a group of killers called "the dragons" or the "Escadron de la mort" (death squad). The court heard that around April 25th, 1994, Nsengimana accompanied by soldiers sought and killed a priest, Father Mathieu Ngirumpatse at the time bursar at the Christ Roi College after extorting the college safe from him. Nsegimana allegedly stated: "Let me kill this Tutsi dog myself, since I am sick and tired of him. Let me kill and let me be proud of it, let me stop when my weapon kills five !" He reportedly said this to soldiers asking whether Father Ngirumpatse should be killed. The court heard that Nsengimana also asked an old woman from Father Ngirumpatse's family seeking refuge at the presbytery to follow him and "killed her by sticking his sword in her thorax. "Nsengimana supervised at least three roadblocks for the purpose of screening Tutsis to be killed : one located before the Christ-Roi College, another in front of he Ecole Normale Primaire (ENP) and the other near the house of one "Pasteur" according to the prosecution. Nsengimana is the fifth cleric detained by the Tribunal, after Anglican Bishop Samuel Musabyimana, Adventist Pastor Elizaphan Ntakirutimana and Catholic Priests Emmanuel Rukundo and Athanase Seromba. He was arrested on March 21st this year in Yaoundé Cameroon at the request of the Tribunal. Prosecution alleges that soon after the death of former President Juvénal Habyarimana was announced in the evening of April 6th, 1994, Nsengimana held a meeting with some soldiers on how to keep watch on the Tutsi. He also allegedly called some members of Les Dragons or Escadron de la mort (death squad) who went in search of fleeing Tutsis and who were later killed. The court heard that Nsengimana had said he would not flee the country "without seeing the head of Father Justin Furaha" (a Tutsi priest) and ordered his employees to search for him; at the end of May 1994 Furaha was killed. Nsengimana appeared before ICTR's Trial Chamber Three Judge, Pavel Dolenc of Slovenia. A duty counsel assigned by the ICTR, Bharat Chadha from Tanzania represented Nsengimana. A trial date will be set in due course. SW/FH (ICTR-0416e)