Arusha, February 16, 2004 (FH)- A witness in the trial of four former Rwandan ministers Monday told the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), that a Tutsi woman was taken away from a church and killed by a soldier on the orders of Justin Mugenzi, one of the accused in the trialThe thirteenth prosecution witness identified as "LEL" to protect her identity, told the trial chamber she learned from other Tutsi refugees who had sought refuge at Rukara church then in Kibungo prefecture in April 1994, that Mugenzi, a former minister for Commerce, had sent the soldier to collect the woman only identified as Vestina. "It was said Mugenzi had sent the soldier to come and take that woman (Vestina) ",LEL stated.

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She added that Vestina was taken along with two other women who later managed to escape and come back to the church. The witness testified that the women who were taken away were raped by the Interahamwe who turned them into their wives by force. LEL stated that before leaving the church with the women, the soldier allegedly threatened the refugees, saying "all of you will be exterminated". According to the witness, Interahamwe and soldiers attacked the church shortly after the soldier had gone and many refugees were killed. She could not recall the date of the alleged attack. LEL who was aged 16, in 1994, recalled that she and other members of her family had fled to the church in April but could not say the exact date she arrived there. Mugenzi is jointly being tried with former minister of Health, Casimir Bizimungu, the former minister of Foreign Affairs Jérôme Bicamumpaka, and Prosper Mugiraneza, former minister of Public Service. They face six counts of genocide and crimes against humanity. The so-called "Government II" trial is taking place in Trial Chamber Two of the ICTR where Judge Asoka de Zoyza Gunawardana (Sri Lanka) is presiding. He is assisted by judges Lee Muthoga (Kenya) and Khalida Rashid Khan (Pakistan). The trial continues on Tuesday with the cross-examination of LEL. PJ/KN/AT/FH (GVII''0216e)