Arusha, 18 August 2009 (FH) - A former high ranking administrative official sentenced last month to life imprisonment  by the semi-traditional court in Rwanda known as  gacaca, after being found guilty of participation in the 1994 genocide, appeared before the gacaca appeal court on Sunday, according to the Rwandan newspaper Izuba (The Sun).

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Augustin Hategeka was the prefect of Gitarama (central Rwanda) a few years after the genocide, before being elected mayor of Muhanga (central Rwanda), a position which he had to resign in 2007, officially due to "personal reasons."

At the time of his appearance on Sunday before a gacaca court of appeal in Gitarama, he once again claimed his innocence, underlining to have saved ten Tutsis including his wife, reported Izuba on Tuesday.

Two witnesses, however, accused him during this hearing of playing part in the massacre of several teachers of Gitarama, according to the newspaper.

The trial will continue next Sunday.

Inspired by the former village assemblies during which the wise men settled disagreements, while sitting on the grass (gacaca, in Kinyarwanda), the gacacas are charged with trying the alleged authors of the 1994 genocide, with the exception of the "planners" at the national level.

They can sentence up to life in prison, the maximum sentence in Rwanda.