Arusha, April 22nd, (FH)- A prosecution witness Thursday told the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), that he had sought and got permission to bury the head of a neighbour in June 1994. The protected witness given the pseudonym BF was testifying in the case where the former councillor of Gishyita sector (Gishyita commune) in Kibuye province (Western Rwanda) Mika Muhimana, is accused of genocide and crimes against humanity.

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He revealed that the head belonged to a prominent Tutsi coffee trader in Gishyita known as Assiel Kabanda who had been killed and decapitated by the accused. "Mika had put the head on display in the window of Kabanda's shop", declared the witness. He added that Mika and other jubilant Interahamwe militia mocked the head, telling people to come and sell their coffee as Kabanda was back. A previous witness code-named BE had told the Tribunal Wednesday that he had seen the headless body of Kabanda after he had been killed in Bisesero hills in Kibuye. He alleged that Kabanda's genitals had been cut off and pinned onto an electric pole. "He was my neighbour and my friend. I could not bear to see his head exposed the way it was", the witness told Mika's lawyer, James Nyabirungu Mwene Songa from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) during cross-examination. "I had known him since 1962. He was a person who never discriminated against anyone and had many friends, both Hutus and Tutsis", stated the 79 year-old Hutu man. Before being elected Councillor for Gishyita in 1988, Mika Muhimana, 54, had been a businessman in the area. He is accused of four counts: genocide or in the alternative, complicity in genocide, crimes against humanity (rape and murder). He has pleaded not guilty. The prosecution maintains that during the genocide, Mika not only directed the killings of thousands of Tutsis, but that he personally killed many women in Gishyita and the surrounding areas after having raped and publicly humiliated them. He is also accused of having distributed weapons to Interahamwe militia, widely believed to have spearheaded the genocide. He is the first municipal Councillor to be brought before the Tribunal. Another former counsellor of the neighbouring Mubuga sector, Vincent Rutaganira, is awaiting trial. The trial is taking place in Trial Chamber Three of the ICTR composed of Judge Khalida Rashid Khan of Pakistan (presiding), Lee Gacuiga Muthoga of Kenya and Emile Francis Short from Ghana. The trial continues Tuesday. KN/JA/GF/FH (MH''0422e)