Arusha, 27 August 2007 (FH) - The defence of a former magistrate entered its last leg Monday before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) which is trying him for genocide and crimes against humanity.   

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Siméon Nshamihigo, 47, was the substitute of the prosecutor in Cyangugu (southwestern Rwanda) in 1994. He is accused of murdering Tutsis in this area and has pled not guilty.
Monday, the tribunal started hearing the last twenty five witnesses for the defence in a session that should be completed by 21 September.
Nshamihigo has been calling witnesses since 23 April 2007. Up until 3 May, the date the proceedings were suspended, he had just called fifteen witnesses.
Monday, the tribunal heard the testimony of a protected witness with the pseudonym "SBS". He explained that he was a pastor within a Protestant church in Cyangugu and that he had never seen Siméon Nshamihigo carrying a weapon during the three months that the Tutsi genocide lasted in 1994.
The prosecutor argues that, during this period, Nshamihigo had a stock of weapons at his residence in Cyangugu. He would have later distributed them to the Interahamwe militiamen, affiliated with the former governing party, to whom he would have ordered to kill Tutsis that had taken refuge in several places in Cyangugu, notably in parishes.
Certain witnesses for the prosecutor affirmed that the defendant carried a weapon with him and wore a military uniform.
Witness SBS stated that he knew Nshamihigo very well and indicated that he had never seen him in military fatigues between April and July 1994.
"Mr. Nshamihigo liked to dress himself in short sleeve shirts. It is like that I often saw him ", indicated SBS.
Arrested in the enclosure of the ICTR where he worked as an investigator for a defence team in 2001, Siméon has been on trial since 25 September 2006.
The prosecutor rested his case on 29 January 2007 after having called twenty four witnesses.
Nshamihigo is being tried by a chamber presided by Dennis Byron (Saint-Kitts and Nevis), also the ICTR President.
Judge Byron is assisted by the Burkinian Judge Gberdao Gustave Kam and a Czech Judge Robert Fremr. On Monday, Judge Kam was absent due to health reasons.
Nshamihigo is defended by two Canadian lawyers, Denis Turcotte and Henri Benoît.
At the time of his opening statement on 23 April, 2007, Turcotte affirmed that his customer is innocent and asked the judges to acquit him.
"The Tribunal is not the avenger of the prosecutor. We have confidence in the ability of the judges to render a decision that is justified by the evidence ", he pleaded.
The prosecution is led by the Ivorian lawyer Alphonse Van.

© Hirondelle News Agency