Arusha, March 15, 2004 (FH)- A witness in the trial of four former Rwandan ministers taking place at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), Monday claimed that one of the accused, the former minister of Commerce, Justin Mugenzi had removed a moderate member of his party from office. Mugenzi was the president of the Liberal Party (PL) from 1991.

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The 24th prosecution witness code-named "GJI" to protect his identity, comes from the same area as Mugenzi in Rukara commune (now in Umutara province, eastern Rwanda). He said that "between March and May, 1993," the accused had replaced the PL's representative in Rukara, François Mugabo, accusing him of not adhering to the extremist Hutu ideology. Mugabo apparently fled his village after being removed from office because he feared being persecuted. GJI added that Mugabo's successor, Samson Gacumbitsi, played a leading role in the massacres of Tutsis in of Rukara in 1994. "A lot of machetes and boxes of ammunition were discovered in Gacumbitsi's house after the genocide," claimed the witness. GJI revealed to the court that Gacumbitsi was sentenced to death by the Rwandan judicial authorities for his participation in the genocide. The witness was being led in examination-in-chief by Elvis Bazawule, a member of the prosecution team. The defence will cross-examine him on Tuesday. Mugenzi is co-accused with the former minister of health, Casimir Bizimungu, the former minister of foreign affairs, Jerome Bicamumpaka, and Prosper Mugiraneza, former minister of public service. All have pleaded not guilty to crimes of conspiracy to commit genocide and crimes against humanity among others. The so-called "Government Two" trial istaking place in Trial Chamber Two of the ICTR, composed of Judge Asoka de Zoysa Gunawardana for Sri Lanka (presiding), Judge Lee Gacuiga Muthoga from Kenya and Khalid Rashid Khan from Pakistan. Judge Khan has been presiding over proceedings as Judge Gunawardana hasbeen absent since last Tuesday. KN/ER/AT/FH (GVII''0315e)