Arusha, October 25, 2002 (FH) - Genocide suspect and former Rwandan minister of information, Eliézer Niyitegeka never raped or killed anybody during the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, a defence witness told the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) on Thursday. "Never.

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I never heard of anything like that", protected witness named 'TEN 16' to protect her identity told the court. Niyitegeka is accused of rape and murder among several other charges related to the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. Most of the crimes allegedly took place in the Bisesero hills in the West Rwanda province of Kibuye. An estimated one million ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed in the genocide according to an official census by the government of Rwanda. In a testimony that lasted for about one hour, the witness refuted almost all allegations contained in the prosecutor's indictment. She said she had never heard that Niyitegeka had been involved in any fighting, gun distribution, robbery or public incitement to kill ethnic Tutsis. TEN 16 testified that given Niyitegeka's status as a minister, she would have known of any such crimes. Under crossexamination, TEN 16 conceded that she had not been at any of the alleged crime scenes at the time the crimes were allegedly committed. "I was not there and didn't see him", she said. She insisted that despite her absence, she would have known of anything that happened. Assistant defence counsel for Niyitegeka, Feargal Kavanag of Ireland protested at the prosecutor's suggestion to the witness that his client had been involved in rape. “The indictment doesn't mention any rape charges against my client”, he said. He filed a motion effectively asking judges of the chamber to step down from the trial after listening to the “outrageous” comments of the prosecutor. “What you have heard is likely to influence your deliberations at the end of the trial”, he told the judges. Prosecutor Melinda Polard of the US argued that she had asked the question as a follow up to questions asked to the witness by the defence. She also said that a prosecution witness heard before the court had implicated Niyitegeka in a rape. Presiding judge Navanethem Pillay of South Africa said that the chamber would deliver a ruling on the matter on Monday. Niyitegeka's trial is being held before Trial Chamber One of the ICTR, comprising Judges Navanethem Pillay of South Africa (presiding), Erik Mose of Norway and Andresia Vaz of Senegal. Judge Pillay will not attend court next week due to commitments at the UN security council. ICTR rules provide for continuation of a trial before two judges in the absence of a judge from that chamber. GG/CE/FH(NI1025e)