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Arusha, February 28, 2007 (FH) – Activity should be relatively reduced at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) during March, its calendar including only three trials, one of which should last only a few days. The first trial on the calendar is that of the Butare group bringing together six defendants originating from Rwanda’s southern region. Included among this group is the only woman detained by the ICTR, the former Minister of the Family and Promotion of Women, Pauline Nyiramasuhuko. Mrs. Nyiramasuhuko is notably co-accused with her son Arsene Shalom Ntahobali, a former student at the university and presumed chief militiaman. This trial, the longest of those which are ongoing at the ICTR, started on June 12, 2001. The prosecution closed its case on November 5, 2004 after calling fifty nine witnesses. The defense has been presenting its witnesses since January 31, 2005. Currently, 70 witnesses called by 3 defendants have already been heard. The former prefecture of Butare, from which six of the accused hail is highly symbolic in the history of the Tutsi genocide in Rwanda because it is also the ancestral region of the president and the prime minister of the interim government. The prosecution alleges that it was President Theodore Sindikubwabo, presumably dead, who on April 19, 1994 gave the order to massacre the Tutsis in Butare during the inauguration of the prefect Sylvain Nsabimana, one of the accused on trial. In 1998, Prime Minister Jean Kambanda was sentenced to life in prison after having admitted his responsibility in the genocide. The other trial on the calendar for March is that of the former prefect of Ruhengeri (north). Protais Zigiranyirazo, a brother-in-law of the former Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana, whose death on April 6, 1994 by an attack on his plane served as the catalyst for the genocide. The trial of Zigiranyirazo, called Mr. Z., started October 3, 2005. The defense has presented witnesses since October 30, 2006. The witnesses of the last few days have been members of Mr. Z’s family. Among them are two of the former president’s children and one of the four wives of the defendant. The Zigiranyirazo trial has often served as an occasion to bring up the alleged powers of the akazu (small house, in kinyarwanda), former President Habyarimana’s inner-circle. A prosecution witness, the former director of the tea company in Rwanda, Michel Bagaragaza, also indicted for genocide by the ICTR, accused Mr. Z of being at the center of the akazu, which is alleged to have planned the genocide. Zigiranyirazo’s defense team, led by the Canadian lawyer Mr. John Philpot, stated that the concept of an akazu was an invention of Habyarimana’s opponents. Apart from the Butare and Zigiranyirazo trials, the Tribunal must also sit for a week in the case of Tharcisse Renzaho, former prefect of the city of Kigali between 1990 and 1994. His trial started January 8, 2007. On February 8, the prosecutor announced the provisional close of its case, subject to two pending requests. In these requests, the prosecutor asked to call two additional witnesses, one a fact witness and the other an expert. The expert is the American Alison Des Forges, an historian and human rights activist, who has been called to the bar on several occasions by the prosecutor. The Chamber has scheduled hearings between March 2-9, if necessary. The Tribunal also anticipates continuing deliberations which started last November in the trial of the former prefect of Kigali municipality, Francois Karera. Since its creation in 1994 and its first hearing in 1997, the ICTR has tried 33 people, 27 others are currently on trial. The mandate of the ICTR, which is responsible for trying the organizers of the 1994 Rwanda genocide, is set to expire on December 31, 2008. Eighteen of the accused are still at large. AT/PB/KD © Hirondelle News Agency