Woman deported from US, priest arrested in France over Rwanda genocide roles

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A Rwandan woman who sought political asylum in the United States after hiding her and her family’s role in the 1994 genocide has been deported to Rwanda after serving a 10-year jail sentence for lying.

Béatrice Munyenyezi fled to the US in 1998 with her three daughters where she successfully applied for political asylum citing persecution in her home country.

In 2013, a court found that she had lied about her involvement in the genocide and she was stripped of her American citizenship and was given a ten-year sentence.

About 800,000 people, mainly ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus, were slaughtered in Rwanda in 100 days in 1994 by Hutu extremists, many of whom later fled the country.

Prosecution witnesses had told of how Munyenyezi had inspected identity cards at a notorious roadblock where ethnic Tutsis were singled out for slaughter.

She had also denied affiliation with any political party when she applied for asylum, despite her husband being a leader of the Interahamwe militia – the youth wing of the then-governing MRND.

The 51-year-old is expected to be arrested on her arrival home and charged over her role in the genocide.

Her husband, Arsène Shalom Ntahobali, and her mother-in-law, Pauline Nyiramasuhuko, who was a government minister, were both found guilty in 2011 by the UN International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda for their role in the genocide and are serving long prison sentences.

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

Marcel Hitayezu was charged on Wednesday with genocide and being an accomplice to crimes against humanity, according to the national anti-terrorism prosecutor’s office.

He was arrested the same day at his home in Montlieu-la-Garde, southwestern France, a source close to the case said.

Prosecutors said Hitayezu was the priest at a church in Mubuga, in southern Rwanda, when the genocide took place and in April 1994 withheld food and water to Tutsis who had sought refuge in his church.

He instead gave food to extremist Interahamwe militiamen who attacked the refugees, prosecutors added.

“Marcel Hitayezu denied the charges at his initial appearance before a judge,” the prosecuctor’s office said.

Rwanda had sought to extradite Hitayezu but France’s Cour de Cassation, the country’s highest criminal court, in 2016 rejected the request, as it did similar requests by Kigali for others suspected of having taken part in the genocide.

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

“He was until Wednesday vicar to the priest at the Montlieu-la-Garde church,” the regional archdiocese told AFP.

According to the daily La Croix, Hitayezu spent three years in refugee camps in eastern Congo before arriving in France in 1998 or 1999. He was given refugee status in France in 2011.

Another priest who has taken refuge in France, Wenceslas Munyeshyaka, was also accused of being implicated in the 1994 massacres. But his case was dismissed by the courts in France. (Sources: BBC/CNA)

 

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