Arusha, 22 July 2009 (FH) - Lieutenant Samuel Imanishimwe, sentenced to 12 years in prison by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) for his role in 1994 genocide, will be released from prison on 8 August, after having served his sentence, reports Hirondelle Agency.

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Questioned on Imanishimwe's destination after his release, the ICTR spokesperson, Roland Amoussouga, responded: "He [Imanishimwe] will be free and be responsible of his own destiny".

The prisoner is currently being detained in Mali. He will be the fifth convicted to have completed sentence and released.

Arrested in Mombasa, Kenya, on 11 August 1997, Lieutenant Imanishimwe, who commanded a small military camp in south-western Rwanda in 1994, was sentenced to 12 years in prison on 7 July 2006, after being found guilty of crimes against humanity and war crimes.

In June 2007, he had asked in vain for an early release, asserting his lack of a criminal record before his ICTR trial, his good behaviour before and during detention, a potentially fragile health as well as his desire to be trained in the hopes of being useful to his country.

The ICTR President, Dennis Byron, by rejecting the motion, had underlined the gravity of the crimes for which the officer was found guilty.

Judge Byron was, however, undermined in April by the Italian authorities who released, before the end of his sentence, Georges Ruggiu, the former host of infamous Radio Television Libre des Milles Collines (RTLM), known for inciting massacre of ethnic Tutsis during the genocide.

The only non-Rwandan to be prosecuted by the ICTR, Italian-Belgian, who had been transferred to an Italian prison in February 2008, was released without the knowledge of the Tribunal officials.

This was in violation of the ICTR statute, which stipulates that only the president of the Tribunal was qualified to grant a pardon or commute a sentence wherever the place of imprisonment of the prisoner.

The first prisoner to have finished serving his sentence, Adventist Pastor Elizaphan Ntakirutimana, died of natural causes on 22 January 2007, less than a month after having been released.


© Hirondelle News Agency