Arusha, October 15, 2009 (FH) - Yussuf Munyakazi, aged 74 and the oldest detainee of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), denied on Thursday his responsibility for massacres of Tutsis in Catholic churches in the Prefecture of Cyangugu (southwestern Rwanda) during the 1994 genocide.

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The prosecutor alleges that Munyakazi led murderous attacks against Tutsis who had sought refuge in churches in three parishes, Nyamasheke, Shangi and Mibilizi.

"It never happened!", the defendant protested on the second day of his testimony. "Had I wanted to kill Tutsis, I would have started in Bugarama, my hometown". He explained that he had actually hidden Tutsis under his own roof. "I also evacuated Tutsis to Burundi or the Congo", he added referring to present-day DRC.

Munyakazi was cross-examined by Segun Jegede from the Prosecutor's Office, who read out sections of an earlier ICTR conviction of three men from Cyangungu containing damaging evidence against the defendant.

"I did not attend this trial. Neither I nor my lawyers had an opportunity to intervene during these proceedings ", Munyakazi replied in kinyarwanda.

He also claimed that he was never accused of anything before the Gacaca courts in his hometown.

In response, Segun Jegede submitted to the court minutes of two Gacaca trials in Bugarama in which the defendant is unambiguously designated as "the head of the Interahmawe militia" in this district.

Furthermore, one of the two documents alleges that Munyakazi's house had become the "headquarters of the militiamen who gathered there after the killings". Munyakazi discounted the testimony as allegations from Tutsis who had moved to Bugarama after the genocide and grabbed his possessions.

"The only value of these documents is that they clearly attest I was a peasant and not a wealthy businessman, as the Prosecution tries to make believe", Munyakazi said.

The defendant was arrested in May 2004 in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) where he lived as an Imam (Muslim religious leader) under a false identity.

He is the last of twenty witnesses called upon by the Defence in a trial which started on April 22.