Arusha, April 15, 2002 (FH) - Genocide suspect and Seventh Day Adventist pastor Elizaphan Ntakirutimana is loyal to God and must have been falsely accused, an American ex-Adventist leader told the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda on Monday. Pastor Merle Mills was president of the Seventh Day Adventist Trans-Africa division between 1964 and 1980.

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The area covers most of Africa south of the equator including Rwanda. "The man was held in high esteem and he did his job well", said Mills. Mills however conceded under cross-examination by the prosecution that he had not seen Ntakirutimana in the last 14 years and therefore couldn't testify about his (Pastor Ntakirutimana) life over that period. He said he had last seen him in 1980. At the time of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, Elizaphan Ntakirutimana, 77, was pastor of the Seventh Day Adventist church mission at Mugonero in Kibuye. He is jointly charged with his son Gerald Ntakirutimana, 44. 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 during the genocide. An estimated one million Tutsis and politically moderate Hutus were killed in the 1994 genocide according to an official census by the government of Rwanda. Mills also presented to court letters that he said he had obtained from other former Seventh Day Adventist leaders that knew Pastor Ntakirutimana. "None of these people said anything negative about Ntakirutimana", Mills said of the authors of the letters. Mills also told the court that the Seventh Day Adventist church prohibited its leaders from involving themselves in politics. "The Seventh Day Adventist church believes in separation of the church and the state," he said. He also said that discrimination of any kind was unacceptable in the church. The prosecution alleges that the Seventh Day Adventist church in Rwanda supported the state in discriminating against minority Tutsis and later on carrying out the genocide. Earlier on Monday, a protected defence witness started and finished her entire testimony in closed session. She was only referred to as "Witness No. 31". This trial is 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(NK-0410e)