Arusha, November 05, 2009 (FH) - The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) Thursday sentenced to eight years jail the former head of the Rwandan Tea Authority, Michel Bagaragaza, for "complicity to commit genocide".

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‘The Court sentences Michel Bagaragaza to a prison term of eight years with credit for the time he has spent in detention since his arrest on 15 August 2005 and will spend in detention until he can start serving his sentence,'' read out three-bench presiding judge Vagn Joensen.

The judge also said that the ruling took into consideration the mitigating circumstances of the accused, including his voluntary surrender, guilty plea, co-operation with the Tribunal and remorse for his actions.

The Judge also noted that the defence presented very credible evidence in demonstrating that Bagaragaza did not discriminate ethnic Tutsis.

Among other crimes, Bagaragaza (64) admitted having used in April 1994 the tea factory of Rubaya in Gisenyi Prefecture (northern Rwanda) to stock arms for use against Tutsis.

He explained that he had feared for his and his family's safety.

"I beseech clemency for the evil I have committed ", this close friend of the late Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana pleaded before the judges on Wednesday, just a day before the judgement during oral submissions.

"I made bad choices and took easy options during difficult times. It's very hard for me to get over a period that leaves me with remorse and scars", he declared. Referring to the consequences of the genocide, he declared: "The wound is so deep that we have to do our utmost to start reconciling all Rwandans".

Bagaragaza's lead counsel, Gerardus Alexander Knoops stated on Wednesday that, because of the defendant's cooperation with the tribunal, his client's family was exposed to threats by Hutus in the Rwandan diaspora.

With the notable exception of the former Rwandan Prime Minister Jean Kambanda, who was sentenced to life in prison, all defendants admitting to their responsibility in the 1994 genocide have benefited from substantially reduced terms.


© Hirondelle News Agency