Arusha, April 10, 2003 (FH) - The prosecutor in the media case Thursday told the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), that defence witness, Valérie Bemeriki, “had a habit of making false statements”. Simone Monasebian made these accusations after the witness confessed that she had told lies in all statements made to the office of the prosecutor before January 2000.

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Bemeriki, 48, a former journalist with Radio television libre de mille collines (RTLM), is a detainee in Rwanda who was called by Ferdinand Nahimana's defence counsel. Nahimana, a former board member of RTLM, is jointly accused with two others for using the media as a tool of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda by inciting ethnic hatred and killings. The others are Jean Bosco Barayagwiza also a foundermember of RTLM and Hassan Ngeze, former editorinchief of “Kangura” Newspaper. “Did the ‘lightening rod of truth' hit you only after your meeting with Mr. Duval?” asked Monasebian referring to Nahimana's lead counsel, JeanMarie BijuDuval. This was after Bemeriki had retracted all that she had said in 1999 that implicated all the suspects in the media trial. “I made a mistake”, said the witness. “I lied and I would like to correct the lies for the reasons I gave yesterday”. Bemeriki had said the previous day that she had lied both to the office of the prosecutor of the ICTR and the Rwandan government in part to save her skin and also to revenge on former colleagues who had left her stranded in Congo. She was arrested by Rwandan forces in eastern Congo in 1999 and transferred to Rwanda where she is awaiting trial. In her earlier statements, Bemeriki had stated that Nahimana was unquestionably the one who ran RTLM. She later revoked that statement when she said that the accused was only a member of the steering committee. The witness emphatically declared that the director had been Phocas Habimana who is no longer alive; to which Monasebian retorted that “the conveniently dead Phocas Habimana” was being used as a scapegoat. In a bid to question the credibility of the witness, the prosecution exhibited tape recordings of Valérie Bemeriki's broadcasts on RTLM, which contradicted many of her earlier testimonies. Bemeriki's response was that she could not answer questions put to her on her role as an RTLM journalist as it would jeopardise her case in Rwanda. The prosecutor told the witness that the real reasons behind her changing of her testimony was her personal grudge against people, imagined or not, that had scorned her. The witness refuted the allegations. The trial resumes Friday in a closed session for a brief status conference in Trial Chamber One composed of Navanethem Pillay of South Africa (presiding) Erik Møse of Norway and Asoka de Zoysa Gunawardana of Sri Lanka. KN/FH (ME'0410e)