Arusha, 23 April 2009 (FH) - The defence of genocide accused Arsene Shalom Ntahobali Thursday urged the trial judges of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) to acquit the alleged former militia leader accused of genocide and crimes against humanity in 1994.

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Normand Marquis, lead defence counsel for the 39-year-old Ntahobali, the youngest accused before the UN Court, claimed that his client should be set freeA "because several prosecution witnesses failed to identify the accused in the court room and others lied".

Ntahobali is tried alongside five others, including his mother, Pauline Nyiramasuhuko, former Minister for Family and Women Affairs during the genocide. Ms Nyiramasuhuko, the only woman charged before ICTR, was the first to begin her defence on Monday and concluded two days later.

According to Marquis, out of 17 prosecution witnesses who testified, only seven recognised Ntahobali.

He further mentioned four protected prosecution witnesses who allegedly lied before the Chamber--- "TK", "SJ", "TN" and "TA".

He explained that abductions, rapes and killings which allegedly took place in several areas in Butare, Southern Rwanda, were contradicted by prosecution witnesses and should be scrapped off as he wrapped up his closing arguments.

The defence of Sylvain Nsabimana, former Government of Butare has begun closing arguments.

Other accused in the so-called "Butare Trial ‘', the longest and largest, are: Ex-governor Alphonse Nteziryayo and two former Mayors, Joseph Kanyabashi and Eli Ndayambaje.

The trial continues Friday.


© Hirondelle News Agency