Arusha, 11 November 2008 (FH) - Captain Innocent Sagahutu, on trial for genocide before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), was, according to a witness heard Tuesday, "a responsible and honest officer".

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"I know Captain Sagahutu very well since secondary school. I especially knew him on the front, in 1990. He was a responsible officer, an honest officer", testified Captain Theophilus Twagiramungu.

"He judged before carrying out orders, he could appreciate the situation well", stated the witness who currently lives in exile in Belgium. Captain Sagahutu commanded during the genocide a squadron of the reconnaissance battalion based in Kigali.

Twagiramungu also claimed that Sagahutu had saved during the 1994 genocide several ethnic Tutsis, some of whom currently occupy important functions within the Rwandan administration.

Before speaking about the defendant, the witness lengthily reported, in spite of the protests of the prosecutor Alphonse Van, his personal path which, notably, led him to several Rwandan prisons before his acquittal by the Supreme Court and his departure into exile in 2006.

He said that after having joined the "army of the victor", he had been accused of genocide and thrown in prison in October 1994. Acquitted on 20 June 2001 by the council of war, he again was imprisoned on 7 January 2003 and later sentenced to capital punishment, a judgement which was quashed by the higher legal instance on 26 February 2006.

Sagahutu is on trial alongside three other officers, including the former Chief of Staff of Rwandan Army, General Augustin Bizimungu. Accused of crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, the four defendants have pleaded not guilty.


© Hirondelle News Agency