Arusha, 5 September 2007 (FH) - The defence of Siméon Nshamihigo, a former magistrate accused of genocide, called these last few days witnesses of the massacres of which he is accused of before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR).   

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The protected witness "SL" who testified Wednesday was present at the time of a massacre committed on 28 April 1994 at the parish of Shangi in Gafunzo commune in south-western Rwanda.
Nshamihigo is accused of having requested, then distributed, weapons to the attackers who, under his supervision, attacked Tutsis who had taken refuge in the church of Shangi. He has pled not guilty.
Witness "SL" attributed the instigation of the attack to a certain Pima, "a gangster of great reputation", who lived in the area. He had prior served in the army, indicated the witness.
"It is Pima who was their (attackers) leader. The entire commune knew it. We knew that it is him who had encouraged them to kill ", affirmed the witness.
"Pima always passed by the commune and said: let us kill the refugees at the parish" continued SL, explaining that he did not hide his intentions.
The witness, who observed the killers from a distance, reported that "Pima had come with many people on the road. Those who followed him whistled and beat drums. There were young people of all kinds. They came threatening. They asked us to help them but we were afraid ".
According to SL, the local authorities did not do anything to stop the attackers "because they did not have any power".
Last Monday, another defence witness had implicated the same Pima in the massacres committed at the church of Nyamasheke in the Kagano commune on 15 April 1994. Nshamihigo is also charged for that crime.
The strategy of Nshamihigo is to called eyewitnesses of the massacres to prove that he did not take part in them.
On Tuesday, witness "SVC" had cleared him of the massacres at the church of Hanika where approximately 1 500 Tutsis were killed on 11 April 1994.
Nshamihigo was arrested in May 2001 as he was a defence investigator in another case which was in progress before the ICTR.
His trial began on 25 September 2006. The prosecution rested its case on 29 January 2007 after having called twenty four witnesses.

Nshamihigo has been calling witnesses for the defence since 23 April. He should end his case on 21 September after having called to the stand about forty witnesses.
The defendant is represented by two Canadians lawyers: Denis Turcotte and Henry Benoît.
He is on trial before the third first instance chamber of the ICTR, presided by Judge Dennis Byron (Saint-Kitts and Nevis).
The chamber also includes the Burkinabean Judge Gberdao Gustave Kam and the Czech Judge Robert Fremr

© Hirondelle News Agency