Arusha, January 27, 2003 (FH) - Genocide suspect and former Rwandan journalist, Hassan Ngeze, couldn't have conspired with the military during the 1994 genocide since he was personally being pursued, a defence witness told the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) on Monday. "Ngeze was arrested and detained for helping people fleeing from militias to leave the country", witness AEZ1, named as such to protect his identity, told the court.

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The witness also said he had known Ngeze since his childhood. "There is no way he would have conspired with the same people that were hunting for him", said AEZ1. Ngeze was the owner and editor of alleged extremist newspaper, Kangura. He is jointly on trial with three other former media personalities in what has been called the 'media trial'. They are founder member of RadioTélévision Libre des Mille Collines (RTLM) Ferdinand Nahimana and politician and RTLM board member, JeanBosco Barayagwiza. The three are mainly accused of using the media in Rwanda to alienate and call for killings of ethnic Tutsis. Furthermore, AEZ1 testified that contrary to prosecution allegations, Ngeze was an amiable person in his north west Rwanda hometown of Gisenyi. "He was also fearless and courageous", AEZ1 said. AEZ1 also suggested that Ngeze wouldn't have killed one Modeste Tabaro. The murder of this exhotel accountant during the genocide has been blamed on Ngeze. "The day (Tabaro) got killed, Ngeze was no longer in Gisenyi", said EAZ1. He said that the night before the discovery of Tabaro's body, Ngeze's residence had been attacked by soldiers loyal to the then government. The witness also denied prosecution allegations that Ngeze had distributed weapons during the genocide or possessed weapons himself. The prosecution challenged the credibility of the witness saying that what he said in court was different from what he had said previously in his statement to the defence. The witness said that none of the differences amounted to a contradiction. Prior to the testimony of EAZ1 on Monday afternoon, the court was in closed session. The trial is before Trial Chamber One of the ICTR, composed of Judges Navanethem Pillay of South Africa (presiding), Erik Mose of Norway and Asoka de Zoysa Gunawardana of Sri Lanka. Pillay is currently away from the bench on official business. GG/CE/FH(ME'0127e)