Prosecution witness in the genocide trial of Jean Twagiramungu who was extradited by Germany in 2017, has changed his testimony the moment he appeared before the court.
Twagiramungu was sent over by Germany, to face crimes against humanity and genocide charges for his alleged role in the massacre of over 10,000 Tutsis in Rukondo and Karama communes, currently in Nyamagabe district.
Twagiramungu was a well-known teacher in that region before the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi. Prosecution dossier alleges that he brandished traditional crude weapons including machetes everywhere he went.
Twagiramungu was also reportedly seen with such weapons at various roadblocks where Tutsi were picked from others crossing, to be killed. Prosecution claims Twagiramungu used his influence as a teacher to order Interahamwe militia to take arms and kill their Tutsi neighbours.
Before extradition from Germany, Twagiramungu had battled for two years against being brought to Rwanda with the explanation that he wouldn’t get a fair trial.
This Tuesday, Twagiramungu appeared at the High Court Chamber for International Crimes located in Nyanza, Southern Rwanda, for start of submissions in his defense.
Two witnesses made the appearance today. One of them, Emmanuel Ngiriyumwami, a former policeman, informed court he had initially signed affidavit as part of prosecution evidence against the accused Twagiramungu.
In court, Ngiriyumwami had hearing difficulties. Questions had to be repeated very loudly for him to hear. He is currently imprisoned at the Mageragere Prison outside Kigali, serving 30 year sentence for genocide.
Ngiriyumwami told court that he developed hearing complications in 1997 due to torture inflicted on him by “soldiers” who demanded he confesses against Twagiramungu. He said his eardrum was damaged by blunt objects used to hit his head.
Ngiriyumwami said during the period, four other men were beaten to death in prison as they couldn’t give evidence against Twagiramungu.
Ngiriyumwami said he had to accept to sign the affidavit to save himself from imminent death. ‘I knew one day will be in front of a judge to tell the true story,’ said the witness.
Ngiriyumwami told court that he went to home of Twagiramungu family to drink water many times during the genocide. For all that time, said the witness, Twagiramungu was never part of the genocide militia the Interahamwe.
Ngiriyumwami and another witness both said today that Twagiramungu was born from a Tutsi mother, and therefore could not have been involved in the massacre of Tutsis.
The other witness said he was part of a group of 50 Interahamwe that marauded in the region killing Tutsis, but didn’t see Twagiramungu among them. Asked by the court whether he remembers the names and faces of all the other Interahamwe in the group, the defense witness said he couldn’t as it was long ago.
As for the witness Ngiriyumwami, court asked whether he was defending Twagiramungu because they were known to each other before the genocide. He admitted to the relationship but said the information he had about Twagiramungu was the “truth” and it couldn’t change even if they were not known to each other.