Arusha, 17 July 2007 (FH) - A lawyer suggested that a witness testified against his client in the hope of obtaining favours from Kigali on Tuesday in the trial of the leaders of the former ruling party currently in progress before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR).  

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Chantal Hounkpatin (France), who represents the former president of the former Rwandan presidential party, Matthieu Ngirumpatse, alleged that the protected witness "FH", detained in his country for the past ten years in connection with the 1994 genocide, made the journey to Arusha in exchange of a promise of reward from the authorities.

"The exchange for the testimony would be the dropping of the charges", implied Hounkpatin.

The witness, a former local administrator in the Gitarama prefecture (central Rwanda), had already testified for the ICTR prosecution in two other cases.

"I beg you, not to try me on intent. I started to testify before I was in detention. I did not come to testify because I am in detention. What I want is the truth. I do not expect anything in exchange of my testimony", answered the witness.

Ngirumpatse is accused with the former vice-president of the Mouvement RépublicainNational pour la Démocratie et le Développement (MRND), Edouard Karemera, and the former secretary-general of the party, Joseph Nzirorera.

The lawyer of Karemera, Felix Sow (Senegal), concentrated on one of the witness' previous testimonies before the ICTR and raised several contradicting elements with his current testimony.

The witness was confronted with an interview which he had granted to Radio Rwanda in 1994 in which he supported the interim government whereas before the Tribunal he accused it of being responsible for the genocide of Tutsis, in particular in Gitarama.

FH replied that "taking into account the difficult moments that I lived, I said all that came into my mind".

"According to your interests, you can tell the truth as you can not tell it? ", the lawyer threw at the witness. The former local administrator indicated that he had defended the government to save his life.

Back on the offensive, Sow suggested to the witness that "even today, you do not tell the truth especially that we know that you are not free? ".

"Times are different. In every way the genocide is over. Moreover, I gave this testimony when I was free. It is my small way of contributing to the truth. You cannot compare two different moments ", he said.

The defence of Nzirorera will cross-examine this witness on Wednesday.

This trial, Karemera et al., started in September 2005. The prosecutor is at his 18th witness of the sixty he is expected to call. The proceedings should continue beyond 31 December 2008, the date that the ICTR is scheduled to the end its mandate.


© Hirondelle News Agency