Arusha, 03 February, 2009 (FH) - A total of 14 defence witnesses out of 18 have so far testified for defence of  former Rwandan Acting Minister for Interior during the 1994 killings, Calixte Kalimanzira,56, who is on trial for genocide and crimes against humanity before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR).

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French lawyer, Arthur Vercken, counsel for the accused sounded optimistic that he would present as scheduled 18 defense witnesses when the session resumed on January 26. The defendant is expected to start his own defence next week.

Protected witnesses known only with code names ‘'AK11'', ‘'AX100'', ‘'FCS'', ‘'FAT''  and unprotected witnesses--  Jean de Dieu Rutabana and Alphonce Nsabimana-- alleged that they did not spot the accused at Kabuye Hill and at the Arboretum Forest in Butare prefecture, Southern Rwanda, where the supposedly crimes were committed by the accused.

‘' If he had been there I would see him since I knew him (Kalimanzira) well,'' defense witness Nsabimana claimed before the three-bench judge presided by Justice Dennis Byron, who is also the President of the Tribunal, during the prosecution's cross examination.

The witness, who was former prisoner in Kigali and now lives in exile in Burundi, had earlier informed the court on Tuesday that he knew the defendant as they used to eat and drink together at the accused's parents-in -law regularly.

The most serious accusations against Kalimanzira relate to the role he played in the massacre of thousands of Tutsis who had sought refuge on Kabuye Hill and his participation in search of Tutsi refugees at Arboretum Forest, where it was alleged Hutus were ordered to locate ethnic Tutsis and kill  them.

The trial continues on Wednesday. 

According to the UN, about 800,000 people mostly Tutsis and moderately Hutus were killed during the 1994 Rwandan massacres prompting the establishment of ICTR shortly afterwards to prosecute key suspects of April-July slaughter.


© Hirondelle News Agency