Arusha, February 15, 2002 (FH) - A defence witness in the genocide trial of Adventist pastor Elizaphan Ntakirutimana and his son Gerard Ntakirutimana told the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) on Friday that he had never seen either of the two accused with a gun. The trial was later adjourned to April to make room for another trial alternating with the Ntakirutimanas' in the same chamber.

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At the time of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, Elizaphan, 77, was pastor of the Seventh Day Adventist church mission at Mugonero in Kibuye. He is jointly charged with his son Gerard Ntakirutimana, 44. Gerard was a medical doctor at the infirmary which lay in the same complex. Several prosecution witnesses had testified that the pastor and his son shot and killed Tutsi refugees during the April 16th 1994 attack on Mugonero hospital. Prosecution says that some 6,000 people died in that attack. "I have never, never in all my life seen Pastor Ntakirutimana or Gerard carrying anything that can be described as a weapon," said the defencewitness, identified only as "Witness Number Twenty-five" to shield his identity. The witness also testified that he had seen Pastor Ntakirutimana and Gerard in Gishyita commune on April 16th 1994. The prosecution holds that the Ntakirutimanas led an attack on Tutsi refugees at Mugonero hospital on that date. The defence says the Ntakirutimanas had themselves taken refuge at nearby Gishyita commune offices at the time of the alleged massacres. Most of the nine witnesses heard so far have testified that the Ntakirutimanas were in Gishyita on April 16th. The defence is scheduled to bring 23 more witnesses. The case 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/JC/FH (NK-0215e)