Arusha, 14 May 2008 (FH) - Jean-Paul Akayesu, first person convicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) for genocide and crimes against humanity, testified Wednesday for the defence in the so called "Karemera Trial", which brings together three leaders of the former ruling party, National Republican Movement for Democracy and Development (MRND), and denied the existence of a criminal enterprise to which the defendants would have been involved.

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Convicted in first instance on 2 October 1998, then in Appeal on 1 June 2001, Akayesu was Mayor of Taba commune, former prefecture of Gitarama, central Rwanda during the 1994 genocide.

He was called by the defence of Edouard Karemera, vice-president of MRND. Two other MRND officials accused in the joint trial are Mathieu Ngirumpatse, MRND President and the party's Secretary General, Joseph Nzirorera.

"It was not possible for a joint criminal enterprise [by the defendants]" he told the court. The prosecutor accuses the defendants and the witness of being part of it.

"They had their orders, we had ours", stressed Akayesu, adding that there could not have been a criminal agreement between the members of the MRND and him because he came from the Democratic Republican Movement (MDR).

"The MRND and the MDR were opposed, they fought at all levels", he said. "Hatred had created a total mistrust (between the two parties)", stated the prisoner who came for his testimony from Bamako, Mali, where he is serving his sentence since December 2001.

The witness, wearing a magnificent embroidered boubou, typical of West Africa, also stated that he was "astonished" to hear allegations that Karemera had taken part in a meeting chaired on 18 April 1994 in Murambi, Gitarama by the Prime Minister Jean Kambanda, also convicted of genocide and in prison in Mali.

The former prefect of Gitarama, Fidele Uwizeye, stated, at the time of his testimony in the case, that Karemera had given a speech inciting the extermination of Tutsis at this meeting.

"If he (Uwizeye) said that, he is not at all honest. He came to lie. I swear it to you in the name of God, Karemera was not there. If he had been there, I would have seen him. I knew him", affirmed Akayesu.

"That reminds me of witnesses who came in my trial to testify things which never existed. I was a victim of lies of this sort", he continued.

"Very honestly, you who are not Rwandan, there are things (concerning Rwanda) which you will never understand", the convict who was responding a question of Dior Diagne, the Senegalese lawyer of Karemera.

Accused of genocide and crimes against humanity, Karemera, Nzirorera and Ngirumpatse, have pleaded not guilty.

Their trial is before a Chamber presided by Judge Dennis Byron of Saint-Kitts-and-Nevis who is the President of the ICTR.


© Hirondelle News Agency