Arusha, February 24, 2003 (FH) - Two defence witnesses in the joint trial of three prominent officials from Cyangugu, said on Monday at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda that killings in Cyangugu were the result of unruly youths who went on the rampage following the shooting down of former president Juvénal Habyarimana's plane. In a session that was mostly conducted in camera, witnesses "BHP" and "GNV", so codenamed to protect their identities, told the court that former Prefect of Cyangugu, 54 yearold Emmanuel Bagambiki, was not present during the killings both at Gashirabwoba stadium and Nyamasheke parish in Cyangugu.

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Bagambiki who is being jointly tried with former transport minister André Ntagerura, 53 and 42 yearold Lt. Samuel Imanishimwe, a former commander of the Karambo military barracks, is accused of being the mastermind behind the killings in his home area of Cyangugu. Vincent Lurquin of Belgium represents the former Prefect and is assisted by Seydou Doumbia of Cameroon. "BHP" told the court that the tension began rising in the prefecture in 1990 when the RPF launched its attack against the government. According to him, the RPF's attack saw the birth of a poor social climate. He went on to say that the advent of multiparty politics divided further their community, giving the example of one, Antoine Hitimana, a member of the Mouvement Démocratique Républicain, who threw a grenade at Pascal Rurangangabo of the ruling MRND. "BHP" added that reports of young Tutsis going to join the ranks of the rebel RPF, further exacerbated suspicions in the community. When asked by one of Bagambiki's defence lawyers, S. Doumbia, to elaborate further, the witness cited the names of parents who he claimed, had sent their children to join the rebels. " One week before Habyarimana's death, I overheard three Tutsis in a bar say that 'if Habyarimana dies, we will have peace', people knew what was going to happen", he claimed. "BHP" added that many people suspected that the Tutsis were behind Habyarimana's death. The witness then indicated that when Habyarimana died, marauding bands of 'bandits' attacked Tutsi homes and started looting, causing victims to seek refuge at the stadium and at the Nyamasheke parish. Both defence witnesses added their voices to what previous defence witnesses had said in defence of the accused, that he had tried his best to stop the killings. They said that when he learnt that the then Bourgmestre of Kagano, Kamana Alloys, was actively involved in the killings, he dismissed him. "When the bandits threatened the parish Bagambiki went there to restore calm", BHP also said. "I even saw him on April 13, 1994 standing with Bishop Thadée Ntihinyurwa of Cyangugu outside the parish". The trial, which began on September 18, 2000 continues in Trial Chamber Three, presided over by Judge George Lloyd Williams of St. Kitts and Nevis, assisted by Judges Yakov Ostrovsky of Russia and Pavel Dolenc of Slovenia. KN/CE/FH (CY'0224e)