06.02.08 - RWANDA/GACACA - EX-RWANDAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE GETS 15 YEARS JAIL FOR GENOCIDE

Arusha, 6 February 2008 (FH) - A former Rwandan presidential candidate, Dr Theoneste Niyitegeka, was Tuesday found guilty of having played a role in the 1994 genocide and was sentenced to 15 years in prison by the traditional Gacaca Court of Appeal of Gihuma sector, South Province.
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Niyitegeka, whose candidacy was rejected by the electoral commission because of irregularities, wanted to contest the last 2003 presidential elections as an independent candidate.

Prosecuted for complicity with soldiers to kill ethnic Tutsi patients, the medical doctor who worked at the hospital of Kabgayi, central Rwanda, had been acquitted in the first instance last October but one of the plaintiffs appealed against the decision.

Dr Niyitegeka was accused of having driven the patients out of hospital complex and delivered them to waiting killers at road blocks.

Another medical practitioner, Dr Seraphin Bararengana, brother of former President Juvenal Habyarimana, has also been convicted of genocide by the gacaca court.

Bararengana, who lives in exile, was convicted in absentia.

Gacacas (pronounced gatchatcha) are charged with trying the alleged authors of the 1994 genocide which, according to UN estimates, claimed lives of nearly 800,000 people, mostly ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus.

Gacaca courts are not presided by professional magistrates, but by people nominated from within the community with high moral authority. The maximum sentence is a life jail.

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