20.01.09 - RWANDA/JUSTICE - GENOCIDE: FORMER RWANDAN JUSTICE MINISTER SENTENCED TO LIFE IMPRISONMENT

Kigali, 20 January 2009 (FH) - The former Rwandan minister of Justice in the interim government of 1994, Agnès Ntamabyariro, was on Monday sentenced to life imprisonment  after being found guilty of genocide and crimes against humanity by the Court of First Instance of Nyarugenge, in Kigali, reported Hirondelle News Agency.
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"After deliberation, the court finds Mrs. Agnès Ntamabyariro guilty of 9 counts out of 11 charges indicted against her and sentences her to life imprisonment," declared Judge Roselyne Ninahazwa, at the end of the verdict red for four hours.
 
This is the maximum sentence in Rwanda since the abolition of capital punishment in 2007 and the convict will serve it in isolation.
 
Her co-defendant, Jean-Léonard Hategekimana, former deputy prosecutor, was acquitted.
 
The former minister among others was convicted for planning genocide, incitement to commit genocide, complicity in the assassination of a Tutsi prefect of Butare (southern Rwanda), Jean Baptiste Habyarimana and conspiracy.
 
However Mrs. Ntamabyariro was acquitted of other charges including destruction of houses and distribution of firearms, indicates the judgment in Kinyarwanda.
 
According to several prosecution witnesses, Mrs. Ntamabyariro had, on several occasions, during genocide, called for the massacre of Tutsis.
 
Judge Ninahazwa quoted part of the judgement which revealed that , the former minister delivered on May 14,1994 to killers in Kibuye a "message of thanks from the government".
 
The testimony,  most quoted in the judgment was that of the former driver of the convict, Gervais Ngendahayo, who told the court that  Mrs. Ntamabyariro distributed rewards to the killers, at the roadblocks, after having inspection of Tutsi corpses.
 
The judge also mentioned the responsibility of the former minister in the installation and the reinforcement of "Hutu power" in her political party- Liberal Party (LP). 
 
"Hutu Power was the origin of civil self-defence established by the government to spearhead  genocide,''  Judge Ninahazwa said.
 
Arrested in Zambia in 1997 and held in Rwanda since then, the former minister is the only member of the "genocidaire" government to be tried by a Rwandan court so far.
 
After the judgement, Mrs. Ntamabyariro announced her intention to appeal.
 
In an interview with Hirondelle News Agency, her lawyer, Gatera Gashabana, the President of Lawyers Association in Kigali, reproached the judge for "not having sufficiently taken into account the evidence brought by the defence" and to have based his decision on "testimonies whose validity leaves a lot be desired".

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