Arusha, April 22, 2004 (FH)- Former Rwandan Minister for Information and genocide convict Eliezer Niyitegeka on Thursday claimed before the Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda that the evidence presented against him by prosecution witnesses during his trial were blatant lies. "All statements made by factual witnesses are unfounded and merit to be deemed as blatant lies," Niyitegeka stated.

1 min 12Approximate reading time

Niyitegeka told the five judges hearing his appeal that the evidence of the factual witnesses were the results of coaching. The prosecution called 13 witnesses while the defence called 11. He also found the conclusions of the trial chamber which convicted him last year "restrictive", when it stated that he was a person of good character before the 1994 Rwandan genocide. "My character was good before the event, during the event and even now", he declared. According to Niyitegeka, had the prosecutor carried out objective investigations, he would have realised that the allegations by the witnesses were inconsistent with his actions during the genocide. The trial chamber had rejected the alibi he gave as defence. Regarding the participation of a prosecution attorney who had been suspended by the New York bar from practicing law, he said that her presence had caused enormous damage to his case. Niyitegeka was allowed to make a personal statement for 15 minutes after his lawyer had completed his submission. The hearing of the appeal ended after his statement. Niyitegeka, 52, was convicted by ICTR trial chamber on six counts of genocide and crimes against humanity on May 15, 2003 and sentenced to life imprisonment. During the hearing of the appeal, Niyitegeka was represented by Irish lawyers Sylvie Geraghty and Feargal Kavanag while Ken Flemming from Australia led the prosecution. The case is before Judges Theodor Meron of USA presiding, Mohamed Shahabudddeen, (Guyana) Florence Mumba, (Zambia) Wolfgang Schomburg, (Germany) Ines Monica Weinberg de Roca (Argentina). The Appeals Chamber has so far confirmed seven convictions and one acquittal. PJ/JA/GF/FH (NI''0422F)