Arusha, March 26, 2003 (FH) - The former prefect of Cyangugu, Emmanuel Bagambiki, began giving his evidence in chief before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) on Wednesday. Bagambiki, 55, is jointly tried with two former senior officials on charges that they organised and carried out massacres of ethnic Tutsis in this southwestern town of Rwanda during the 1994 genocide.

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During his questioning by his lead counsel Vincent Lurquin of Belgium as to whether he ever lobbied for his high profile posts, the twentysixth and last defence witness categorically denied the allegations saying that every post he ever held was on merit. The accused who later joined Rwanda's intelligence services before being named sousprefet and later prefect, told the court that even in his 10 years as a prefect, he had never met president Habyarimana on a personal basis, but only during official visits. “I helped to develop wherever I was posted”, said Bagambiki, who prior to being named to Cyangugu, had served both in Gitarama and Kigali. “At the end of every year I was always given an “excellent” assessment by my superiors because whatever I put myself to do, I made sure I did a good job of it. That is one of my principles”, the former civil servant revealed. Bagambiki is being jointly tried with two former leaders from Cyangugu. They are; former minister of transport and telecommunications, Andre Ntagerura and former commander of the Cyangugu military camp, Lieutenant SamuelImanishimwe. All have pleaded not guilty to all charges levelled against them. Bagambiki began his testimony late on Wednesday afternoon. It lasted for about half an hour. Bagambiki will resume his testimony on Thursday. Earlier the defence had called in an expert witness, Belgian police officer, commissaire Jacques Graff, who gave an interpretation of many photographs and video footage he had taken in different places in Cyangugu. M. Graaf showed many places, including the Cyangugu cathedral, the Kamarampaka stadium, the Shangi parish and the Shagasha tea factory. He gave detailed information on the distance that separates some points between these places or on the general topography of these places. The defence intended on checking or denying testimonies from prosecution witnesses. The prosecution alleges that, in April 1994, many Tutsis who had sought refuge in Cyangugu cathedral have been taken to Kamarampaka stadium. There, the local authorities, including Bagambiki, are said to have selected Tutsi refugees from existing lists. They have been arrested and executed in Gatandara, according to the prosecution. When asked if, according to him, between 2. 000 and 3. 500 people could live in the cathedral, as some prosecution witnesses have alleged, M. Graff answered: "I can't imagine that many people living in this place for so many days. "The trial is before Chamber Three of the ICTR composed of judges Lloyd George William of St. Kitts and Nevis (presiding), Yakov Ostrovsky of Russia and Pavel Dolenc of Slovenia. KN/CE/FH(CY'0326e)