Arusha, February 11, 2003 (FH) - The twentysixth defence witness in the trial of former Rwandan Minister for Higher Education and genocide suspect Jean de Dieu Kamuhanda, on Tuesday told the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda that Kamuhanda was not an influential person in the MRND political party at the time of the genocide, contrary to allegations by the prosecution. The witness dubbed VPG to shield his identity stated that Kamuhanda was a member of MRND "just like other members".

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The prosecution alleges that Kamuhanda was an important member of the MRND and also an advisor to interim president Théodore Sindikubwabo before he was appointed a minister. " Did he have the capacity to influence the party?" Kamuhanda's lead counsel Aicha Conde asked VPG. He responded "not at all "VPG told the chamber he was also a member of MRND, an official of the Electoral Commission and also Kamuhanda's friend. The witness further testified that Kamuhanda never made a speech inciting Hutus against Tutsis at an MRND rally in Kayanga within Gikomero commune in August 1993. He explained that he and Kamuhanda, accompanied by a Tutsi couple, attended the rally for about two hours. The speaker at the rally introduced Kamuhanda to the crowd as one of the intellectuals of Gikomero and asked him to address them. VPG said Kamuhanda introduced himself, then gave the witness a chance to address the gathering also. The rally was organised by the MRND committee of Kigali Rural Prefecture. When Kamuhanda's lead counsel Aicha Conde put to VPG that two prosecution witnesses had testified that Kamuhanda made an inciting speech at the rally, VPG said it was not possible because Kamuhanda's address only lasted for two minutes. VPG recalled that he had also attended another a rally at Nyamirambo Stadium within Kigali city, which brought together several political parties after the signing of the Arusha Peace Accord, but he never saw Kamuhanda there. Impossible for Kamuhanda to get to GikomeroLike other previous defence witnesses, VPG told the court he was surprised to learn of Kamuhanda's arrest through Radio France International. "I am telling you Kamuhanda is innocent and he shouldn't have been arrested because he did not kill anyone," the witness declared. During crossexamination by defence counsel Ibonukulu Babajide of Nigeria, the witness claimed that Kamuhanda never set foot in Gikomero but only fled towards Gitarama together with the witness through Kigali. He maintained that Kamuhanda could not have gone to Gikomero to perpatrate killings at the parish on 12th April 1994, as alleged by the prosecution because RPF rebels had seized the roads to Gikomero. The witness stressed that he visited Kamuhanda at his home in Kigali on April 9th and 10th 1994. VPG, who is now a refugee in a country he did not reveal in open session, said he would only go back to Rwanda once the "arbitrary arrests stop and justice prevails". The trial was adjourned to Thursday. Wednesday is a public holiday in Tanzania. The trial is before Trial Chamber II composed of judges William Hussein Sekule of Tanzania (presiding), Arlette Ramaroson (Madagascar) and Winston Churchill Matanzima Maqutu (Lesotho)PJ/CE/FH (KH0211e)