Rwandan priest arrested in France for alleged role in genocide

Rwandan priest arrested in France for alleged role in genocide

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A Rwandan priest was arrested in France this week for providing, among other things, food to militiamen who massacred members of the Tutsi minority in his church during the 1994 genocide in the African country, authorities said on Friday. .

FILE PHOTO: People prepare coffins containing the recently discovered remains of 84,437 victims of the 1994 genocide before a funeral ceremony at the Genocide Memorial in Nyanza, a suburb of the capital Kigali, May 4, 2019. – The remains of nearly 85 000 people murdered during the genocide in Rwanda were buried on May 4 in a dark ceremony in Kigali, a quarter of a century after the massacre. / AFP

Marcel Hitayezu, born in 1956, was charged Wednesday with genocide and an accomplice in crimes against humanity, according to the national anti-terrorism prosecution.

He was arrested the same day at his home in Montlieu-la-Garde, in southwestern France, a source familiar with the matter said.

Prosecutors said Hitayezu was the priest of a church in Mubuga, southern Rwanda, when the genocide took place and in April 1994, he refused food and water to Tutsis who had sought refuge in his church. Instead, he fed the extremist Interahamwe militiamen who attacked the refugees, prosecutors added.

“Marcel Hitayezu denied the charges during his initial appearance before a judge,” said the prosecution.

Rwanda had sought to extradite Hitayezu but the French Court of Cassation, the country’s highest criminal court, rejected the request in 2016 because it made similar requests from Kigali for others suspected of participating in the genocide. which saw around 800,000 people massacred, mostly from the Tutsi ethnic minority.

The April-July 1994 genocide began after Rwanda’s Hutu President Juvénal Habyarimana, with whom Paris had close ties, was killed when his plane was shot down over Kigali on April 6.

Hutu extremist militias lashed out, killing Tutsis and moderate Hutus, in a bloodbath that occurred after decades of tension and violence between the two communities.

French authorities launched an investigation into Rwanda’s accusations against Hitayezu in July 2019, three years after the extradition request.

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