Arusha, August 12, 2003 (FH) - The defence teams in what is known as the "Cyangugu trial" began presenting their closing arguments at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) Tuesday. Trial Chamber Three of the ICTR is trying the former minister of transport and communication in the interim government André Ntagerura, 53, the former prefect of Cyangugu, Emmanuel Bagambiki, 54, and the former military commander of Karambo barracks in Cyangugu, Lieutenant Samuel Imanishimwe, 42.

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They are accused of having organised and carried out massacres of ethnic Tutsis in Cyangugu (south-western town of Rwanda) during the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. All have pleaded not guilty to a total of 20 genocide-related charges committed in Cyangugu where, prosecution claims, about 100,000 people lost their lives. "The person before you is an honest and incorruptible man" said Franco Congolese Hamuli Rety wa Mudeydey, one of the defence lawyers for Ntagerura. "All his life he was known as an impartial man who was concerned for the victims" the lawyer continued, adding that his client had even condemned the violence in an interview he gave to the press in Burundi as he accompanied the remains of Burundi's former president, Cyprien Ntaryamira. "He publicly condemned the killings and called for calm", said Rety. The Burundi president had died in the same plane crush as that of Rwandas President Juvenal Habyarimana. Ntagerura's defence counsel argued that his client was only pursued because he was part interim government and not for any wrong doings. "He should be judged for his actions and not the actions of others". Another member of Ntagerura's defence team, the lead counsel Benoît Henry from Canada, said that the prosecution had failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt the crimes allegedly committed by his client. Both defence counsel came back to the issue of their clients indictment calling it vague and imprecisearguing that it made it impossible for their client to defend himself. "The burden of proof lies with the prosecution and not Ntagerura", Benoît Henry declared, adding that some of the prosecution witnesses were motivated by ulterior motives. He cited the example of witness "LAJ", so-called to protect his identity, who is currently being detained in one of Rwandas prisons. He questioned the credibility of such witnesses who he said could be motivated by the prospect of getting lighter sentences in Rwanda. "It is the reality, even if some of the witnesses deny it",Benoît Henry said as he ended his submissions. Benoît Henry asked the judges to declare Ntagerura innocent. Trial Chamber Three in this trial is composed of Judge George Lloyd Williams of St. Kitts and Nevis (presiding), Yakov Ostrovsky of Russia and Pavel Dolenc from Slovenia. The trial continues Wednesday. KN/GF/FH(CY'0812E)