Arusha, January 30, 2002 (FH) - Former Bicumbi mayor Laurent Semanza on Wednesday morning boycotted his genocide trial, in protest at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda's Tuesday decision that one of his expert defence witnesses would not testify. However, his boycott appeared to have been short-lived as he later reappeared in court.

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"The accused refused to come because he was unhappy with yesterday's decision," a representative of the Registry told the judges. Semanza's defence also wrote to the court calling for a suspension of proceedings to sort out the expert witness issue. On Tuesday, the court ruled that one of two remaining expert witnesses would not testify because the defence had contravened an earlier ruling. The court said the defence had not presented the report of scheduled French forensic expert Dominique Lecomte by the expected deadline, despite being granted more time. Semanza's defence claimed in vain that they were not at fault, and instead blamed the "operations of the Tribunal". The defence maintained this stand on Wednesday through its letter, which was read out by presiding judge Yakov Ostrovsky of Russia. Lead counsel Charles Taku of Cameroon/USA said that before delivering its ruling, the court did not adequately consider new information submitted bythe defence. He urged the court to suspend proceedings so defence could prepare an appeal against the ruling. The defence wants to call an official from the UN Witness Protection Unit, which it blames partly for its woes. Defence says Witness Protection didnot make timely travel arrangements for the witness to go to Rwanda. The court replied that the defence letter was "misconceived and ill advised" and that its behaviour was "not tolerable in a national, let alone international court". It told the defence to put its appeal in writing. The court also ruled that proceedings would continue with or without the accused, and that it was his right to appear or be absent from the proceedings. Professor Pascal Ndengejeho a former Rwandan Minister then continued his testimony as an expert witness. He had started testifying on Monday. The accused Semanza reappeared in court shortly after the testimony started. Semanza, a former mayor of Bicumbi (Kigali province in central Rwanda), is charged with 14 counts of genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide and crimes against humanity, includingrape and persecution in Bicumbi and Gikoro communes. He has pleaded not guilty. Prosecution maintains that he was involved in planning the killing of Tutsis, including training of militia and distribution of weapons in his commune. Semanza allegedly committed the crimes between April 9th and 13th, 1994. His defence says that the former mayor is a "victim of political vendetta. " A number of defence witnesses testified that Semanza was a "good leader who did a lot for his people". The case is 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-0130e)