20.11.07 - RWANDA/GACACA - CONFIRMATION OF THE ACQUITTAL OF A PASTOR IN SOUTHERN RWANDA

Arusha, 20 November 2007 (FH) - The acquittal of Pastor Samson Gasarasi, who was prosecuted for genocide, was confirmed in appeal on 16 November by a semi-traditional Rwandan court of the district of Nyamagabe, in the South Province, it was reported Tuesday from a local associative source.
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The clergyman had been acquitted in first instance last September, according to the League for Human Rights in the Great Lakes Region (LDGL), a collective who is headquartered in Kigali

The pastor was accused of weapons possession during the genocide, implication in massacres, participation in roadblocks and inciting Hutus to kill Tutsis in 1994, still according to the LDGL, which does not specify, however, to which church Gasarasi belongs.

During the appeal trial, 16 November, Juliette Mukakabanda, the person who had appealed the acquittal, refused to testify. During this hearing, 8 defence witnesses, all survivors of the genocide, were heard. Each witness insisted on the role of Pastor Gasarasi in the distribution of food and water to the people who were threatened during the genocide.

As in the first instance trial, the pastor was acquitted of all the charges against him.

Inspired by traditional village assemblies during which wise men settled disagreements while sitting on the grass (gacaca, in Rwandan language), the semi-traditional gacaca courts are charged with trying the majority of persons accused of having played a part in the 1994 genocide. They are presided, not by professional magistrates, but by "persons with integrity" elected among the community. They can sentence persons up to life in prison.
 
According to the executive secretary of the National Service of the Gacaca Courts (SNJG), Domitille Mukantaganzwa, these courts should complete their work in a month.
 
ER/PB/MM

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