Baltimore, 3 February, 2009 (FH) - A Rwandan professor has been suspended with pay from teaching French at Goucher College, United States, while officials are investigating claims that he was involved in the 1994 genocide in his home country.

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According to College President Sanford Ungar,  Professor Leopold Munyakazi, 59, was removed from teaching after officials learned he had been indicted in 2006 on genocide charges in Rwanda, according to AP.

More than 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed in 1994 after the then-president's plane was shot down as he returned from negotiating with Tutsi rebels

Munyakazi, a Hutu, said in an interview Monday at his home that he has been persecuted by the Rwandan government because his wife is Tutsi and he protected her and her family during the killings.

"I'm not hiding; I was never involved in genocide," Munyakazi claimed. "In my conscience, I am free of any guilt."

Ungar said Munyakazi's removal "in no way reflects a judgment about Dr. Munyakazi or about the charges that have been made."

The accusations came to Ungar's attention in December when he was approached by an NBC News producer working on a story that involved Munyakazi.

When he was released provisionally because of his age and profession, he left the country for a seminar in the U.S. and never returned, according to Andrew Dusabe, second counselor at the Rwandan embassy in Washington.

The U.S. Justice Department has referred questions about Munyakazi's case to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, which did not return calls for comment Monday.

Munyakazi started teaching in September at Goucher College in Towson, just north of Baltimore. He was contracted for two semesters through the Scholar Rescue Fund, which provides fellowships for scholars whose lives and work are threatened in their countries.


© Hirondelle News Agency