Arusha, April 20, 2011 (FH)-A defence witness before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) claimed Wednesday that former Rwandan Mayor Grégoire Ndahimana was not among authorities who led attacks of Tutsis who sought refuge at a church in Western Rwanda on April 15 and 16, 1994.

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"I never saw him there," claimed witness code named ND22 to protect his identity when he was referring to Nyange Church massacre site in Kivumu Commune, Kibuye prefecture. The prosecution alleges that more than 2000 Tutsi refugees were killed at the church when it was attacked on both occasions.

Led by the defendant's co-counsel, Wilfred Nderitu, the witness named the authorities who were present as Fulgence Kayishema, former Judicial Police Inspector of the commune, Telesphore Ndungutse and Anasthase Rushema, both teachers and Christophe Mbakilirehe, who was brigadier of the commune.

"(On April 15, 1995), those people were right next to the Virgin Mary Statue mobilizing people by telling them that they should be ready to confront the Tutsis," the witness, who was among the attackers, said as he was testifying in Kinyarwanda for Ndahimana, the former mayor of Kivumu Commune.

The witness, currently living in Rwanda after spending 12 years in jail for his involvement in the attacks, said he saw same authorities at the church on April 16, 1994, giving instructions to destroy the church. "I did not see any other authority speaking to drivers of bulldozers which destroyed the church," he alleged.

Cross-examined by trial attorney Segun Jegede, witness ND22 admitted that he could not have seen Ndahimana at the church if he was with parish priest Father Athanase Seromba in his office because he did not go there. He insisted, however, that he did not see Ndahimana outside the church during attacks.

Asked whether has it came to his knowledge that the accused had participated in the massacres at the church on both occasions, the witness responded, "except when I learnt that he had been detained here in Arusha, I know of no crimes he may have committed. I never saw him anywhere committing crimes whatsoever."

Ndahimana is charged with genocide or complicity in genocide, in the alternative and extermination, as a crime against humanity. He is accused of planning the massacres at the church jointly with other officials, including father Seromba, currently serving life imprisonment sentence for his involvement.

Others are businessman Gaspard Kanyarukiga, who was sentenced to 30 years imprisonment for similar involvement and Kayishema, who is still at large.  Ndahimana was arrested in the DRC on August 10, 2009. He was transferred to Arusha on August 21, 2009.  He made his initial appearance on September 28, 2009 and denied all the charges.


© Hirondelle News Agency