Arusha, March 2, 2004 (FH) - The defence team of the former Rwandan minister for Finance and genocide suspect Emmanuel Ndindabahizi, on Tuesday asked the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda to acquit the accused. “Ndindabahizi does not deserve to be sentenced.

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The only justice that can be given to him is to acquit him”, pleaded lead counsel Pascal Besnier of France in his closing arguments. Besnier added that “the reconciliation which is needed in Rwanda does not come through the conviction of innocent persons. ”The prosecutor, Charles Adeogun –Phillips of Nigeria, had called on Monday for the maximum sentence of life imprisonment to be imposed on the accused, stating that the suspect is guilty of all the charges against him. “The prosecutor has persisted in trying the accused for political reasons,” Besnier claimed. He added that Ndindabahizi was unknown in Rwanda up to June 2001, when the indictment was confirmed by the tribunal. Ndindabahizi, 53 is charged with three counts including genocide and crimes against humanity (extermination and murder). He allegedly perpetrated massacres of civilians in his native prefecture of Kibuye, western Rwanda. He is accused of organizing, inciting and supervising massacres, including making public calls for the killing of Tutsis in general and certain individuals in particular. Besnier went on that the indictment against his client has shortcomings and was vague. Moreover, he said, two-thirds of the indictment was not touched by the prosecution witnesses in their evidence, in which, he added, there were inconsistencies. Besnier also challenged the testimonies of almost all the prosecution witnesses, saying they had stated dates in court when the accused is alleged to have committed crimes which do not tally those indicated in the indictment. This, he said, has prejudiced the case of the defence who were unable to look for information to challenge the dates given by witnesses in the oral testimony. The prosecution called a total of fifteen witnesses. Ndindabahizi's co-counsel, Guillaume Marçais (France), also told the chamber that most of the prosecution witnesses were not credible and their evidence were full of contradictions. He added that their evidence had been challenged entirely by that of the defence witnesses. “Not only are we convinced of Ndindabahizi's innocence but we are full of confidence that the trial chamber will decide in our favour,” Marçais said. After the defence had completed their arguments, judge Khalida Rachid Khan sought to know from the defence why Ndindabahizi did not flee the country when he had the opportunity in May 1994, as he went to Nairobi for official duties. “I can answer that in five words: four children and a wife in Rwanda as hostages,” Besnier replied. The judgment in the trial is expected to be delivered in June this year. Ndindabahizi's trial, which began on September 1, 2003, is one of the fastest in the history of the tribunal. Evidence of fifteen prosecution witnesses and eighteen defence witnesses was heard up to November 28, 2003