Arusha, February 12, 2002 (FH) - Former Bicumbi mayor Laurent Semanza is scheduled to start testifying in his own defence Wednesday morning before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR). The last factual witness completed his testimony on Tuesday.

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ICTR's Trial Chamber Three, which is hearing the case, denied an oral application by Semanza's defence for extra time to "read transcripts" before Semanza testifies. "I don't understand the link between the examination in chief and transcripts," presiding judge Yakov Ostrovsky of Russia told defence. "I just want to add that the prosecution closed its case in April. Defence did not start until October, clearly there has been ample time for you to prepare," added Judge Lloyd George Williams of St Kitts and Nevis. Semanza's lead counsel Charles Taku of Cameroon and USA argued that his team did not have all the transcripts from the proceedings, but Registry said they were all ready. The court ruled that the accused would start his testimony Wednesday morning. The last factual defence witness, Antoine Nyetera, completed his testimony on Tuesday. Nyetera is a Tutsi of royal descent. He started his testimony last week. Twenty-three other factual witnesses and an expert witness testified for the defence. In his testimony Nyetera repeatedly told the court that the killings in Rwanda in 1994 were "not planned". He also said that the pro-Tutsi Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) were responsible for part of the killings in 1994. Nyetera also gave a long historical background on socio-political issues in Rwanda. His testimony was interrupted by lengthy technical debates raised by both the defence and the prosecution. Nyetera was initially listed as an expert witness, but the court ruled that he would testify as a factual witness after prosecution raised objections over his expertise on specific issues relevant to the proceedings. On Semanza, Nyetera said that he was not as influential politically as he had been portrayed. He added that Semanza was not known nationwide but had good relations with the people in his commune and that his commune was ahead of others in terms of economic development. "I never saw Semanza in Presidential lunches," the witness said. Semanza is charged with 14 counts of genocide, conspiracy to commitgenocide and crimes against humanity, including rape and persecution in Bicumbi and Gikoro communes. He has pleaded not guilty. The trial started on October 16th, 2000 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/JC/FH (SE-0212e)