Arusha, March 8, 2010 (FH) - A self-confessed killer denied on Monday before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) that Jean-Baptiste Gatete, the former director of the Ministry for Family and Women Affairs, ever came to his hometown of Murambi during the 1994 genocide.

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" I didn't see Gatete [in Murambi] in April 1994. He was not the kind of person who could go unnoticed," said the defence witness, code-named LA16 to protect his identity.

He thus refuted allegations that Gatete played a role in the April 7 murder of the Tutsi wife of Murambi businessman Seleman Mirindi.

"I knew Gatete well, he was not part of that attack", maintained LA16, who admitted his own participation in the killing.   

According to LA16, Mirindi's home in Kiramuruzi's commercial center was attacked in broad daylight. Mrs. Mirindi was forced out of the house and killed in the middle of the road.

Jean Baptiste Gatete was bourgmestre - mayor - of his native Murambi commune,in Byumba prefecture from 1987 until June 1993. He was a member of the National Congress of former ruling party MRND and was active in party politics both at national and provincial level.

Gatete was ousted as bourgmestre in 1993 amidst allegations that he persecuted the Tutsis of Murambi. He was then appointed Director in the Ministry of Women and Family Affairs, at the time headed by Pauline Nyiramasuhuko, who is also on trial before the ICTR.

According to the Prosecution, Gatete continued to hold sway over local police, gendarmes and militiamen in the Byumba and Kibungo prefectures after his dismissal. He is charged with genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide, incitement to commit genocide and crimes against humanity. He pleads not guilty.

The defendant was arrested in Congo-Brazzaville on September 11, 2002, and subsequently transferred to the UN Detention Facility in Arusha.

His trial started on October 20, 2009. The prosecution closed its case on November 16 having heard 22 witnesses.


© Hirondelle News Agency