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Last Updated: Friday, 22 July, 2005, 02:03 GMT 03:03 UK
Rwandan bishop testifies in court
By Robert Walker
BBC News, Rwanda

Gacaca grassroots court in Rwanda's central Mayange region on 10/03/05
'Gacaca' courts are being held in villages across Rwanda
The head of the Roman Catholic Church in Rwanda has appeared before a local court collecting evidence about the 1994 genocide.

In response to questions from the judges, Archbishop Thaddee Ntihinyurwa denied being implicated in the killings of Tutsis in the south-west of Rwanda.

Local courts, or gacaca, began in March the process of identifying the victims and perpetrators of massacres.

Some 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed in the genocide.

Appearing before the gacaca court in the remote village of Nyamasheke, Archbishop Ntihinyurwa faced intense questioning about his role during the genocide.

In 1994 thousands of Tutsis were slaughtered in the Catholic church at Nyamasheke.

Archbishop Ntihinyurwa was at the time the local bishop and visited the church immediately before the killing started.

Suspicion

Some survivors allege that he baptised Tutsis there in the knowledge that they were about to be massacred.

But in response to repeated questions from the judges, the archbishop denied this.

And in front of the crowd of several hundred people he also rejected suggestions that he attended meetings where the killings were planned.

The court in Nyamasheke, like thousands of others across Rwanda, is in the process of collecting information to identify suspected perpetrators of the genocide.

Although Archbishop Ntihinyurwa is not on trial, his appearance before the court is highly sensitive for the Catholic church.

It will revive debate about its role during the genocide.

Members of the Catholic hierarchy in Rwanda have close ties to extremist politicians in the run-up to 1994 and some priests have been accused of actively assisting the Hutu militias.


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