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Rwanda witness says refugees left to save nuns

      A Rwandan nun testified on Monday that a former fellow nun at a Rwanda convent encouraged refugees who had sought shelter there to leave in order to spare the nuns' lives during the country's 1994 genocide.

Sr Gertrude, former mother superior of the convent, and Sr Maria Kisito are accused of premeditated murder and crimes against humanity over the killings of more than 5,000 Tutsis and Hutu moderates at the convent near the southern town of Butare. Both nuns deny the charges.

Sr Mukasekure Cecile, one of 10 nuns due to testify on Monday, said Sr Gertrude encouraged the refugees to leave the convent, saying that if they stayed they would endanger the lives of the nuns as well as their own lives.

"She (Gertrude) said the nuns had to stay indoors and the refugees had to leave. They left," Sr Cecile said.

A second nun also testified that Sister Gertrude told the refugees to leave the convent.

"She said the refugees should return to their respective communities," Sr Nirere Liberatha said. "They left. Only the family members of the nuns of the convent stayed," she added. The family members were taken away several days later.

The trial last week heard from another witness, a former nun, who said sisters Gertrude and Maria Kisito were the only nuns who periodically left the convent, usually to talk with leaders of soldiers and militiamen surrounding the convent.