Arusha, February 22, 2012 (FH) - The defence for former Rwandan Planning Minister Augustin Ngirabatware Wednesday closed its case after calling 35 witnesses before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR).

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The last witness was Togolese Colonel, Tchemi-Tchambi Aouili, who was a member of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR) observers in Gisenyi prefecture, North Rwanda, between January and April 1994.

The witness told the court that during his stay in Gisenyi prefecture, he never heard or observed a government minister speaking to the population and inciting them to violence against Tutsi ethic group.

Following the closure, Presiding Judge William Hussein Sekule adjourned the case to February 24, for a status conference to determine when the court will start receiving prosecution's extra evidence to challenge alibi defence for accused, who claims he was not in Rwanda from April 23 to May 23, 1994.

Ngirabatware alleges that he had visited Senegal and Swaziland within the contentious period. According to the Rules of the Tribunal, the defence is also entitled to call witnesses to produce "evidence in rejoinder" to contradict such rebuttal evidence, if need arises.

The defence opened its case on November 16, 2010 when the defendant took the stand as its first witness to dispute charges of conspiracy to commit genocide, genocide or in the alternative, complicity in genocide, direct and public incitement to commit genocide and extermination and rape as crimes against humanity.

Ngirabatware was arrested in Germany in connection with the charges on September 17, 2007 and transferred to ICTR custody in Arusha, Tanzania on October 8, 2008. A doctor in economics, the former minister has pleaded not guilty to all the charges.

His trial took off on September 22, 2009 and the prosecution closed its case-in-chief on August 31, 2010 after presenting 20 witnesses.


© Hirondelle News Agency