Arusha, 4 September, 2009 (FH) - The defence team of the oldest detainee at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), Yusuf Munyakazi, 74, managed to call a  record eight witnesses in just three days time between Monday and Wednesday, reports Hirondelle Agency. 

1 min 59Approximate reading time

The last two defence witnesses, including a Roman Catholic Priest, Fr. Thomas Nahimana, denied involvement of the accused into the killings which took place in Mibilizi, Nyamasheke and Shangi parishes in Cyangugu prefecture, western Rwanda, during the 1994 massacres.

Both witnesses, Fr. Nahimana who spoke about the events in Mibilizi and Nyamasheke parishes and a former primary school teacher, Faustin Ntakirutimana who narrated the incidents at Shangi parish in separate testimonies, said they neither saw nor were they told by other people that the accused, Munyakazi was present in the company of Interahamwe militia on the three massacre sites.

‘'I never saw or hear any group of attackers led by Munyakazi in Mubilizi or Nyamasheke parishes,'' Fr. Nahimana who is currently a PHD student in Political Philosophy in France told the attentive Trial Chamber, led   by Cameroonian Judge, Florence Rita Array.

Led by the accused Cameroonian Co-counsel, Barnabe Nekuie, the Priest whom during the events of April-July 1994 was still a student in a major seminary in Rwanda, admitted that Tutsis took refugee in Mibilizi parish and that there were no refugees in Nyamasheke.

He elaborated that on April 30, 1994 he was at Mibilizi church from 11.00 am until 5.30 pm when he left and  that all the time he was there did not see Munyakazi and the alleged group of young people in a Daihatsu pick-up attacking the refugees who sought safety in the church as claimed by the prosecution.

Fr. Nahimana who was the Chairperson of the Unity, Justice and Reconciliation Committee in the Catholic Diocese of Cyangugu after genocide, also revealed that the information gathered from the attacked parishes and other areas in the diocese did not mention Munyakazi being among the people who led the attackers but mentioned a person known as Pima.

Confronted by the prosecuting counsel, Segun Jegede that most witnesses who testified about the events at Mibilizi church said the accused was leading the attacks where about 60 refugees were killed, the witness said ‘' I can only tell what I saw.''

Speaking about the events at Shangi parish, another witness, Faustin Ntakirutimana, a primary school teacher by then, denied that the accused Munyakazi led a group of attackers against refugees at the church but rather said he was told that it was led by an Interahamwe militia only known as Pima.

The two witnesses concluded their evidence.

The trial was later adjourned to Monday when seventeen more defence witnesses are expected to give their evidence. The prosecution rested its case on June 4, after fielding 12 witnesses.

Accused for genocide, complicity in the genocide and extermination, Munyakazi, has pleaded his innocence.

He was arrested in May 2004 in east of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) where he pretended to be an Imam, under the name of Mzee Mandevu (literally, the bearded old man in Kiswahili).

The trial began on 22 April, 2009.


© Hirondelle News Agency