Arusha, 25 October 2007 (FH) - A defence witness stated Thursday that the artist Simon Bikindi did not commit any massacres of Tutsis in the town of Gisenyi (western Rwanda) as the prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) alleges.

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A renowned musician, Bikindi, 53, is accused of inciting genocide through his songs; and also of direct participation in massacres, in particular, in the town of Gisenyi. He has pleaded not guilty.

The witness lived in Gisenyi between April and July 1994. He stated that he was charged with transporting the bodies of the people killed at the road blocks and in the neighbourhoods to the cemetery of the city, which had been called for the occasion the "red commune".

The witness cited individuals who, according to him, had been implicated in the massacres in his city and stated that Bikindi was not involved.

He also accused the militia leader Omar Serushago, sentenced to fifteen years in prison by the ICTR after having pleaded guilty of genocide; as well as the military commander of the area for which the judgment is deliberated before the same court.

"The commander in the city was Mr. Anatole Nsengiyumva. If he had had this initiative, he could have stopped the slaughters but he preferred to close his eyes and people continued to die ", he alleged.

The protected witness, who, probably, lives in Rwanda, indicated that some of the authors of these crimes had recently been convicted by the courts of this country.

As previous defence witnesses, this one stated that Bikindi was abroad during the period of the massacres, implying that he had returned as the crimes for which he is accused of had already been committed.

He added that he had not heard anybody in his district allege that Bikindi had killed Tutsis.

"I must say to you that at his arrest, people said that he had probably been arrested for his songs", the witness indicated.

Arrested in Leiden, the Netherlands on 12 July 2001, Bikindi affirms to have sung about peace, democracy and equality between the citizens of Rwanda, irregardless of ethnic affiliation.

His trial began on 18 September 2006. He is represented by Andreas O' Shea of the bar of England and Wales and Jean de Dieu Momo of the bar of Cameroon.

© Hirondelle News Agency