Arusha, January 16, 2003 (FH) - A defence witness in the socalled media trial told the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) on Thursday that he had been persuaded by members of an organization of genocide survivors to give false testimony against the three accused. The media trial groups three former media personalities accused of using the media to incite the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.

1 min 54Approximate reading time

They are; founder member of RadioTélévision Libre des Mille Collines (RTLM) Ferdinand Nahimana, former politician and RTLM board member JeanBosco Barayagwiza and owner and editor of Kangura newspaper, Hassan Ngeze. They have all pleaded not guilty to charges of genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide and crimes against humanity. Witness RM 14, named as such to protect his identity, is the first witness in defence of Ngeze. "I was asked by Antoine Mbahira if I could help denounce Nahimana, Barayagwiza and Ngeze", said RM 14. The witness told the court that Mbahira was a brotherinlaw to Ngeze and the head of IBUKA (a genocide survivors' organization) in Gisenyi town (northwest Rwanda). "Mbahira told me to prepare for interviews with investigators of the (ICTR) prosecutor. He gave me an entirely false version of what had happened in our area and asked me to present it to the investigators", said RM 14. RM 14 was initially scheduled to testify for the prosecution in the media trial. Prosecutor Wiiliam Egbe told the court that the witness had been dropped because he couldn't recall fundamental parts of his testimony. RM 14 was then contacted by the defence and included on its list of witnesses. He denied prosecution explanations of his failure to testify saying that it was because the "prosecutor was afraid of what I was going to say. He wanted me to say particular things which I thought were false", he added. Furthermore, RM 14 told the judges that there was a conspiracy in Rwanda to fabricate testimonies against genocide suspects. "Fearing that I couldn't oppose such people and stay alive, I fled the country", he said. Saving TutsisRM 14 told the court that allegations that Ngeze incited Hutus to kill Tutsis were false since he was busy helping persecuted Tutsis to flee the country. "Ngeze saved the lives of many Tutsis. He devised means of smuggling them across the boarder to Zaire (Democratic Republic of Congo)", the witness said. RM 14 also denied prosecution allegations that Ngeze had murdered one Modeste Tabaro during the genocide, one of the charges against Ngeze. He said that this was one event that Mbahira had asked him to lie about. "I know very well that Tabaro was murdered by a soldier called Jeff and a man called Regis", he said. Moreover, he said that Ngeze hadn't been involved in any rapes. "That's surprising to me", he said. RM 14 will continue his testimony on Friday with the crossexamination from the prosecution. The case 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. GG/CE/FH (ME'0116e)