Arusha, March 20, 2002 (FH) - A witness in the trial of six people accused of genocide crimes in Butare (south of Rwanda) on Tuesday told the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) that relatives of one of the accused had attempted to prevent him from testifying. The eighth prosecution witness known only as "QBV" to protect his identity, was referring to the relatives of genocide suspect former Butare prefect Alphonse Nteziryayo.

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The Butare trial groups Nteziryayo, former prefect Sylvain Nsabimana and former Minister for Family Affairs and Gender Issues Pauline Nyiramasuhuko and her son Arsene Shalom Ntahobali. The others are former mayors, Joseph Kanyabashi of Ngoma and Elie Ndayambaje of Muganza. All have denied committing genocide crimes in Butare in 1994. Witness QBV is a detainee in Rwanda awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty to genocide crimes before authorities in Rwanda. He said Nteziryayo's parents (who were co-detainees in Rwanda) threatened him to such an extent that he could not reveal the whole truth in the statement he made while in detention. QBV was responding to questions by Nteziryayo's lawyer Frederic Titinga Pacere of Burkina Faso during the continuation of cross-questioning which he began last Thursday. The lawyer drew out some contradictions and gaps between the witness's testimony in his written statement and what he was saying in court. "Yes I did not tell the entire truth because his close ones were looking at me menacingly," the witness said, without giving the exact identity or the relation to the accused of those who allegedly threatened him. The witness said the relatives of the accused told him to appear before the Tribunal and deny that he saw Nteziryayo distribute arms and specifically to stress that he only saw Colonel Muvunyi. Col. Tharcisse Muvunyi was a commander at the military college - "Ecole des sous officiers" (ESO) - in Butare and is currently detained by the ICTR. In his testimony last week, witness QBV said that he manned a roadblock with his military colleagues between the communes of Mugusa and Shyanda. He also told the court that the accused, Nteziryayo, and Col. Muvunyi provided them with arms and ammunition, which they used to kill around fifty Tutsis on April 22nd, 1994. Lawyer Titinga Pacere maintained that the contradictions and omissions by the witness raise questions as to his credibility. This case continues before Trial Chamber Two composed of Judges William Hussein Sekule of Tanzania (presiding), Arlette Ramaroson of Madagascar of and Winston Churchill Matanzima Maqutu of Lesotho. BN/SW/JA/FH (BT-0320e)