Arusha, December 16, 2003 (FH) A prosecution witness Tuesday claimed before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), that the former director of Cabinet in the Rwandan ministry of defence, Colonel Theoneste Bagosora, had chaired a meeting that put in place an interim government in 1994. The witness code-named "AE" to keep his identity secret, said that the meeting took place at the military academy (Ecole Supérieure Militaire- ESM) in Kigali on April 7, 1994 a day after the shooting down of a plane carrying president Juvenal HabyarimanaThe witness is the 36th called by the prosecution in the trial of four senior officers in the former Rwandan army (ex-FAR) who are charged with genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

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He revealed that at that time, he held the rank of Warrant Officer I (WOI) and that he had been detailed to guard a sector near the school. AE continued that during that time, 10 Belgian soldiers sent to guard the former Prime Minister Agathe Uwilingiyimana, were abducted, taken to a nearby military camp and killed. "I saw the Belgians arrive because they passed near my sector" declared the witness, who added that shortly after, soldiers from the presidential guards accompanied by an armoured vehicle, disarmed the Belgian soldiers and took them away in a minibus. Colonel Theoneste Bagosora is jointly charged with the former head of military operations of the army, Brigadier Gratien Kabiligi, the former army commander of Gisenyi region, Lieutenant Colonel Anatole Nsengiyumva, and the former commander of the Para-commando battalion in Kanombe (Kigali), Major Aloys Ntabakuze. The prosecution considers the four officers as the principle architects of the anti-Tutsi genocide and massacres of political opponents that claimed the lives of about one million people between April and July 1994. All have pleaded not guilty. Part of the indictment reads that "Colonel Theoneste Bagosora and the leaders of the MRND put in place an interim government which would aid and abet the continuation of the massacres". The MRND was former president Habyarimana's political party. The witness also alleged that he had overheard a Captain Hategekimana exclaim that Prime Minister Agathe Uwilingiyimana had spoken on a foreign radio station and that "she should not be allowed to escape. "The Prime Minister was subsequently killed by soldiers after being sexually assaulted. During cross-examination by Raphael Constant, Bagosora's Franco Martinique lawyer, the witness was confronted with what the defence considered contradictions in his testimony. He had earlier said that the second-in-command of ESM was a Major Emmanuel Habyarimana. The defence produced a deployment roster of 1994 which showed that Habyarimana was deployed in the Byumba military sector. "Some people were deployed but never occupied their posts", countered AE. "I was with Habyarimana all the time at ESM and even fled with him to Gikongoro". The trial will continue Wednesday and is taking place in Trial Chamber One of the ICTR composed of Judge Erik Møse from Norway, Judge Serguei Aleckseievich Egorov from Russia, and Judge Jai Ram Reddy of Fiji. KN/AT/FH (ML'1216e)