Arusha, April 11, 2002 (FH) - The prosecution in the trial of the former Bicumbi mayor (Kigali rural province, central Rwanda) and genocide suspect Laurent Semanza, will bring new evidence in rebuttal when the trial resumes on Monday, April 15th, before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR). Semanza is charged with 14 counts of genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide and crimes against humanity, including rape and persecution in Bicumbi and Gikoro communes.

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He has pleaded not guilty. He was mayor of Bicumbi for over 20 years before the lost his post in 1993. The trail was adjourned on February 28th after the former mayor testified in his own defence as the last of 26 defence witness. Prosecutor Chile Eboe Osuji of Canada and Nigeria announced then his intention to call witnesses to challenge the defence evidence. "This is the first time in the practice of the Tribunal that prosecution has decided to call rebuttal witnesses," presiding judge Yakov Ostrovsky stated, adding that this was within the rules of procedure. But Semanza's lawyers Charles Taku of Cameroon and USA and Sadikou Alao of Benin objected, arguing that the prosecution was attempting to "reopen the case" and to "bring in new elements" in rebuttal. However, Osuji maintained that in rebuttal he would deal with issues arising from the defence case. In a motion dated March 5, 2002, the prosecutor states that the general scope of the evidence would be an attempt to meet, "as much as can be done at this late stage, the alibi defence which defence raised for the first time during the case for the defence. "Prosecution maintains that Semanza was involved in planning the killing of Tutsis, including training of militia and distribution of weapons in his commune. He allegedly committed the crimes between April 9th and 13th, 1994. Semanza says he could not have committed the crime because he left the area on the night of April 8th. Another contentious issue is the allegation by the defence that certain words of the defendants interview with the prosecutor general in Yaounde Court of Appeal of Cameroon, in April 1996, were edited by the Cameroonian judicial authorities. Semanza was arrested in Cameroon in 1996 and transferred to the ICTR in 1997. While giving evidence, Semanza stated that a statement he made to Cameroonian authorities on his arrest had been "rubbed". Semanza claimed a date - "April 9th 1994" was erased. This date is important because it touches on his alibi. But prosecution intends to call an expert in criminology and forensic science from Kenya, as one of their rebuttal witnesses, to testify in particular on the "words now in dispute". The six witnesses prosecution intends to call also include a Cameroonian Prosecutor and an expert witness in the prosecution case Professor André Guichaoua. This case opened on October 16th 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/JA/FH (SE-0411f)