Arusha, March 28, 2003 (FH) - Genocide suspect and former journalist, Hassan Ngeze told the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) on Thursday that, unlike prosecution accusations, he hadn't been an important person in Rwanda. “I never was.

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The prosecutor portrayed me as a powerful man with close links to the government and millionaires”, said Ngeze on the third day of his testimony. Ngeze, former owner and editor of the newspaper Kangura, told the judges that on several occasions, he didn't even have the funds to print his paper. “No representative of the government helped me. On the other hand, they threw me in jail”, he said. Constantly describing himself as “a street kid”, Ngeze said that he had been detained 20 times between 1980 and 1994, and had been put in police custody on 35 occasions during the same period. “Prison was my second home”, he said. Ngeze said that he had created Kangura after developing differences with Valens Kajeguhakwa, an ethnic Tutsi businessman who had been financing Kanguka, the newspaper he (Ngeze) had been working with until then. Ngeze said that Kajeguhakwa had attempted to recruit him in the Tutsiled Rwandese Patriotic Front (RPF) rebel movement that was at that time about to attack Rwanda from Uganda. “I told him that I was not ready to destroy my country by joining the RPF”, said Ngeze. During his testimony, Ngeze tendered many history books into court evidence. He said that the books would “show the chamber that Ngeze had played no role between the Hutus and Tutsi but was instead an independent journalist in a country plunged in ethnic war”. Ngeze is mainly charged with direct and public incitement to commit genocide. “You arrested the wrong person”Ngeze said that there was no reason why he should be associated with any crimes committed through the media because he didn't publish his newspaper between April and July 1994 (the peak of the genocide). He said that during that period, he was opposing the killers and saving the persecuted. “I never killed. I saved lives. And I did this at the risk of my own life. I'm not eliciting praise from the tribunal, I'm simply saying the truth”, he said. Several defence witnesses have testified that Ngeze helped persecuted Tutsis to flee to former Zaire. The former journalist said that he was being wrongfully accused. “I told the prosecutor that they have arrested the wrong person. ” said Ngeze. “I should in fact have been called as a witness. ” he added. Ngeze is jointly on trial with former university professor and founder member of “hateradio”, Radiotélévision libre des Mille collines (RTLM), Ferdinand Nahimana and former politician and also founder member of RTLM, JeanBosco Barayagwiza. The three are largely accused of using the media in Rwanda to fuel ethnic killings during the 1994 genocide. This trial is before Trial Chamber One of the ICTR comprised of judges Navanethem Pillay (presiding) of South Africa, Erik Mose of Norway and Asoka de Zoysa Gunawardana of Sri Lanka. Ngeze's testimony continues on Friday morning, when it should also end. GG/AT/CE/FH(ME'0328e)