Arusha, April 22, 2003 (FH) - Hassan Ngeze, one of the three accused in the “hate media” trial, testified before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) March 24 to April 8, 2003. A former owner and editorinchief of the “Kangura” newspaper, 46year old Hassan Ngeze is charged with seven counts, among them, genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide, complicity in genocide, direct and public incitement to commit genocide and crimes against humanity (assassinations, persecution and extermination).

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The office of the prosecutor maintains that between January and December 1994, Hassan Ngeze “knew or had reasons to believe that articles published in Kangura incited, helped and encouraged the population and militia to exterminate all Tutsis, moderate Hutus, and Belgian citizens, and never took reasonable measures to prevent those acts or punish his subordinates”. In addition, Ngeze is also accused of killing a Tutsi woman on April 10, 1994 and one of his neighbours who was also Tutsi, Modeste Tabaro, on April 21, 1994 in Gisenyi (western Rwanda). Ngeze turns down assistance of lawyersDuring his examinationinchief Ngeze refused to be guided by his lawyers, opting to steer his own defence according to a “structure” he had prepared. Ngeze's sixchapter defence strategy was highly publicised when the accused posted it on the internet. His defence plan touched on many diverse issues such as the origins of the HutuTutsi conflict in Rwanda, his role as a journalist and “saviour” of Tutsis during the genocide. It also included an interpretation of his writings in Kangura and challenging prosecution witnesses' testimonies. Ngeze however spent a big portion of his testimony on the history of Rwanda, reserving little time to reply to accusations levelled against him. The president of the chamber, Judge Navanethem Pillay of South Africa, called the accused to order on many occasions, telling him:” We expect you to defend yourself. Presenting history books does not help your cause because they are not elements of proof”. Ngeze kept arguing that in order to understand Kangura, one first had to fully understand the realities of the Rwandan history, which according to him, was characterised by antagonisms between the Hutus and the Tutsis. A turbulent history“All that was written in Kangura from issue number one to 73 is part of Rwandan history”, Ngeze continued unflaggingly during his testimony, regretting that Rwandans never discussed the origins of the HutuTutsi conflict. Ngeze maintains that “the 1994 tragedy is a combination of sad events that were never tabled for discussions before Rwandans”. The former journalist is of the view that Rwandans missed a big chance to debate the issue during peace negotiations in 1993 between the government of Rwanda, at that time dominated by Hutus, and former rebels of Tutsidominated Rwandese Patriotic Front (RPF) that are in power in Kigali today. “The international community forced us to apply the Arusha accords yet we had not exhausted all points of discussions” argued Ngeze, saying that the problem of ethnic relations were never on the agenda during the negotiations. “Reconciliation will never be possible if Rwandans do not come to terms with their history”, he declared. Ngeze continued that it was one of the reasons that he joined up with about 50 other people in early 1992 to form a political party, the Coalition for the Defence of the Republic (CDR). According to him, CDR was the only party ready to table the political problems between Hutus and Tutsis. “I fully agree with the statutes of CDR”, Ngeze made the revelations, underlining the fact that it was the only party willing to push for an open debate on interethnic relations in Rwanda. The ICTR prosecutor on the other hand alleges that CDR was a front that preached the Hutu extremist ideology. Hassan Ngeze denies ever supporting that kind of ideology. “I was one of the 55 people who founded CDR, but after its creation, I disappeared”, explained Ngeze, adding that his profession as a journalist called for his neutrality visàvis political parties. Ngeze was also quick to justify his title of “advisor” within CDR, arguing that it was simply an “honorary” title. He continued that his close association with CDR was also an attempt to entice the party to buy advertising space in Kangura. Ngeze the journalistHassan Ngeze claims to have got into the media profession in 1978 working with “different Rwandan newspapers” without naming any in particular. He was a journalist with “Kazagwa” in 1984, before changing its name to “Ejo Nzamera Nte” a few months later. In 1989 it again changed its name, this time to “Kanguka”. Ngeze simultaneously launched “Gisenyi Information”, which he describes as “the only independent news agency”. But observers reveal that that it was nothing more than a kiosk at Gisenyi market that sold newspapers, soft drinks and that also offered telephone and fax services. Because of the change in the editorial policy, Ngeze moved from Kanguka and started “Kangura” in May 1990. According to him, Kanguka had fallen under the influence of some Tutsi businessmen with links to the RPF. The rebel movement was at that time preparing to attack Rwanda. During his testimony, Ngeze insisted that he was the sole owner of Kangura. The prosecution on the other hand alleges that the newspaper was created by people close to the entourage of former president Habyarimana to propagate the “Hutu extremist ideology”. The list includes Ngeze and his two coaccused; the university professor Ferdinand Nahimana and Jean Bosco Barayagwiza, a politician. Also on the list is former minister, Joseph Nzirorera. Describing himself as a “street boy”, Hassan Ngeze cleared himself of any wrong doing. “I was nothing. The prosecutor makes me out as if I was someone important, close to the government and billionaires”, Ngeze defended himself, adding that sometimes he had problems meeting his printing bills. “No one, not even one person in the government helped me. Instead they threw me in jail”, he said. Ngeze also revealed to the tribunal that between 1980 and 1994, he was imprisoned 20 times and arrested 35 occasions. “Prison was my second home”, he frequently liked to joke. “Every time I produced a newspaper, I immediately packed my bags as I knew I would be going to prison”, the accused stated. Kangura's editorial policyNgeze then went on to defend the editorial line adopted by Kangura, denying allegations that he extolled Hutu unity against Tutsis. “I never called for Hutus to unite against Tutsis. I called for unity amongHutus so they could sit down with Tutsis and talk over their problems”,Ngeze explained. In December 1990, Kangura published the famous “Ten Hutu commandments”,which, according to the prosecutor, “not only openly poured scorn andincited hatred for the Tutsi minority, but also singled out Tutsi women forslander and persecution”. One of the said “commandments” stated that “Hutus should stop showing pityto Tutsis. ” Hassan Ngeze had earlier published the “nineteen Tutsicommandments”. Hassan Ngeze claims that he never supported any of the Commandments, “bethey Hutu or Tutsi”. According to him, it was of paramount importance thatRwandans be informed of the existence of these “commandments”, adding that“Kangura is not a bible. “Articles published in Kangura were meant toprovoke debate among its readers”. It is on that argument that Hassan Ngeze denies having incited massacresusing Kangura. “I never incited anyone to do anything”, he underscored, adding that hesimply used ”normal language” in his writings. The prosecution has adifferent view from Ngeze's. It argues that Ngeze relied heavily on Rwandanproverbs to incite hatred against Tutsis. “It is everyday language in usagein Rwanda, it is not my own invention”, Ngeze retorted. He then goes on tojustify his defence by saying that at the height of the genocide, he neverpublished anything. A Good Samaritan?Hassan Ngeze on the contrary presented himself as the “saviour” of thousandsof Tutsis during the genocide by taking them to safe havens whether inRwanda or in the former Zaire. The accused further claimed that he“recruited” others to help him save Tutsis. “The person standing before you is not a criminal”, Ngeze declared. “Soonyou will have before you former high ranking members of the government andthe military. Just ask them one question: How many people did you save?” hestated. Ngeze argued that his generosity was well known by his countrymen,punctuating his remarks that; “I am the hand that gives cattle to others. Iam the person that families turn to in times of problems… those who callupon me in times of danger, I rush to their aid”. In addition, the former journalist claimed that he is unjustly accused. “Itold the prosecutor that he had arrested the wrong person. In fact I shouldhave been called as a prosecution witness”, he stated. He continued by saying that well before 1994, he had tried to preventmassacres by warning competent authorities of the dangers of resuming thewar. “if they had listened to me, this tribunal would not be in existencebecause there would never had been a war”, Ngeze declared. In conflict with his lawyersDuring his testimony, Hassan Ngeze refused advice form his counsel, theAmerican John Floyd and Rene Martel from Canada. The Chamber gave him thegreen light to testify directly before being crossexamined by theprosecution. Ngeze gave a hard time to his lawyers whom he frequently requested that theybe replaced by those of his own choosing that he would pay form his ownpocket. The accused and his counsel have an understanding that they will notrepresent him in case of appeal. Counsel Martel nevertheless stuck by his client during his testimony on manyoccasions, reminding him of pertinent questions the chamber expected him toanswer and objecting to some of the prosecutor's questions. Rene Martel also filed for and obtained that more time be given to hisclient to testify. “It is obvious that Mr. Ngeze has not yet finishedanswering charges levelled against him… it would be prejudicial to his case”, Martel argued on the fifth day of Ngeze's testimony. The chamber accordedthe accused an extra day and a half before being crossexamined by theprosecution. During crossexamination by Charity KagwiNdungu, the Kenyan member of theprosecution team, the accused tried to control proceedings, going as far assuggesting to the prosecution the questions he should be asked and theattitude to adopt. The chamber on many occasions reminded him to have thecourtesy of showing some respect to the prosecution. The media trial is being heard by Trial Chamber One of the first instance ofthe ICTR presided over by the South African, Navanethem Pillay assisted bythe Norwegian Erik Møse and Asoka de Zoysa Gunawardana from Sri Lanka. Part of the proceedings of Hassan Ngeze's trial have been posted on aninternet website; . Ngeze denies anyresponsibility for the website, the same way he denies using his personalEmail address to send a love letter to one member of the prosecution team,Simone Monesebian from the United States. “Monesebian deserves to be loved,but it is another person who wrote that letter using my name”, Ngezedefended himself. The trial was adjourned April 11, 2003 and according to a source within theRegistry, it will resume “in the week starting may 5, 2003. KN/AT/CE/FH (ME'0422e)