Arusha, July 7, 2003 (FH) - A prosecution witness in the so-called "Military I" trial taking place at the international Criminal tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), on Monday denied having been coerced by the Rwanda government to testify in exchange for his freedom. The witness code-named "XPH" to keep his identity secret, was released recently from a Rwandan prison where he was being held after confessing to having participated in the 1994 genocide.

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He has been testifying in this trial for the last week. In his testimony, the witness had claimed that two of the four accused former army officers had prepared lists of Tutsis to be killed in 1993 as a prelude to the genocide of 1994. The meeting allegedly took place in Gisenyi. He named the two as being Colonel Theoneste Bagosora, the former director of cabinet in the ministry of defence and Lt. Colonel Anatole Nsengiyumva, former army commander of Gisenyi region. XPH said that he used to work for an army officer and that he had been present when the lists were drawn up. Rafael Constant, the lead defence counsel for Bagosora, made the allegations while cross-examining the witness for the third day running. He accused XPH of testifying "because of personal interests. "Constant raised the issue of the witness not having been released by a recent presidential decree that saw thousands of suspects released from Rwandan prisons, but instead charged that the witness had been paroled by the Rwandan ministry of Justice as a reward for testifying against the accused. XPH denied the allegations, saying that he had been ready to testify long before the presidential decree. "I was not the only one released", retorted XPH. "More than 20,000 people were set free. Were all of them released in order to testify against Bagosora?" the witness replied. At the end of his cross-examination, Constant informed the court that he reserved the right to recall the witness as he had just gotten "new evidence related to the release" of XPH from Rwanda. Bagosora and Nsengiyumva are being jointly tried with the former head of military operations of the army, General Gratien Kabiligi,, and the former commander of the Para-commando battalion in Kanombe (Kigali), Major Aloys Ntabakuze. All four have pleaded not guilty to conspiracy to commit genocide and war crimes among others. "You never lived in Butare", defence counsel puts to the witness Gershom Ottachi, one of Nsengiyumva's counsels, also questioned the motives of XPH's testimony, also saying that his release was conditional to his testifying. He also pointed out that the accused had never lived in Butare. "I put it to you witness, that in the period between '93 and '94, you were doing menial jobs in Gisenyi and never lived in Butare", Ottachi asserted. The witness also denied this, challenging the defence to take him to the scene to show them where he lived. Nsengiyumva's lawyer stressed his point by saying that the witness could not remember the name of his former boss's wife. "How could you forget the name of someone you claim to have been living with for years and yet remember Bagasora, who you just saw once?" he asked. Most of last week's cross-examination mostly dealt with contradictions between XPH's court testimony and statements made to ICTR investigators. The ninth prosecution witness, code-named "XPG", will begin testifying on Tuesday morning. The "Military I" trial is taking place in Trial Chamber One of the ICTR composed of Judge Erik Møse (presiding), Serguei Aleckseievich of Russia and Jai Ram Reddy from Fiji. KN/CE/FH (ML'0707e)