Arusha, 4 March 2008 (FH) - A protected witness for the prosecution has admitted of having given false testimonies before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), trying key suspects of 1994 genocide.

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The witness known only as "GFA" for his safety alleged that he was lying because of pressure exerted over him by Rwandan officials.

In a recorded statement, GFA explains why these lies were suggested to him by a Rwandan prosecutor, whom he names (as he was imprisoned in Rwanda).

According to him, several witnesses before coming to testify at the ICTR were taught how to present false accusations against former Rwandan officials on trial at the UN Court.

The statement was recorded in early February on video in front of a representative of a defence team and, also, in front of several members of the office of the prosecutor in Kampala, where GFA has found exile.

The recording is currently being transcribed, which observers say would call into question integrity of testimonies and credibility of prosecution at the Arusha-based tribunal.

Gilles St Laurent, lawyer for Augustin Bizimungu, former Chief of Staff of Rwandan Army, drew the tribunal's attention to the GFA's statement, which if it is taken into account, he said, may cancel many paragraphs of his client's indictment.

The prosecution has already presented its case before the chamber since the beginning of the trial in September 2004. The defendants are currently presenting their cases.

Witness GFA alleges that certain charges against Bizimungu, like his participation in a meeting to organize genocide or distribution of weapons, were false and were invented at meetings inside the prison where
he was detained.

The tribunal has ordered the fast transcription of GFA's statement and a copy of the DVD within two weeks.

GFA's retraction was recorded at the request of the defence team of Jerome Bicamumpaka, former Foreign Affairs minister currently on trial in another trial.

In his explanations, he also mentions trial of Joseph Nzirorera, former Secretary General of then ruling MRND, as being targeted by false testimonies.

Since the beginning of proceedings at the ICTR in 1997, the lawyers for the defendants have denounced the prosecution witnesses who often were released for this purpose from Rwandan prisons.

A first witness was at the end of the 2007 sentenced to nine months in prison for contempt of the tribunal after having admitted to making a false testimony.

© Hirondelle News Agency