Thursday, December 16, 2010

French Judge Files Charges Against Kagame Allies

French Judge Files Charges Against Kagame Allies

Associated Press
PARIS December 16, 2010

A French judge has filed preliminary charges against six people close to President Paul Kagame of Rwanda, including the defense minister, over the 1994 assassination of the country's then-president in a missile attack on his plane, their lawyers said Thursday.

The six — some ranking Rwandan army officials — were charged last week over the killing of Juvenal Habyarimana, they said. The assassination was widely seen as a trigger to Rwanda's genocide, in which more than 500,000 people, mostly ethnic Tutsis but also moderate Hutus, were massacred in 100 days of frenzied killing led by radical Hutus.

Investigating Judge Marc Trevidic visited the Burundi capital of Bujumbura from Dec. 5 to Dec. 15, when the six agreed to be placed under investigation, said Bernard Maingain and Lev Forster, who represent all of the men. Trevidic and a team of experts visited Rwanda in September to try to determine the place from where the missile that brought down the presidential plane was fired.

Preliminary charges give officials time to pursue a probe before deciding whether to send suspects for trial or drop the case, and give suspects access to court files.

France is investigating the Rwanda case because the plane's crew was French and died with Habyaramina, along with then-president of Burundi Cyprien Ntaryamira.

Among the six people in question are ranking Rwandan army officers, including James Kabarebe, who has been Rwanda's defense minister since April, Charles Kayonga and Jackson Nkurunziza, the attorneys said. The remaining three were identified as Jacob Tumwine, Sam Kaka and Franck Nziza.

In Rwanda, Justice Minister Tharcisse Karugarama welcomed the investigation, which he said would show that the suspects had no involvement in the downing of the plane and expose the "true authors of that unfortunate event."

"The Rwandan government hopes that this is the first step toward the comprehensive conclusion of this unfortunate case based on political manipulations by people interested in destabilizing Rwanda," he said.

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