Arusha, December 16, 2009 (FH) - A famous Rwandan actor and playwright, Dismas Mukeshabatware, was acquitted on appeal on Wednesday, Radio Rwanda reported. He had been sentenced to 19 years in jail at first instance.

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On October 28, an Appeals Gacaca court in Ngoma (city of Butare) had found him guilty of complicity in the murder of a Tutsi woman and her three children.

According to the state radio, the Appeals Chamber concluded that "Mukeshabatware did not play any role in that murder".The judges ordered "the immediate release" of the actor.

Mukeshabatware came to Ngoma in April 1994 from Kigali where he lived at the time. He was then a member of the well-known theatre company Indamutsa which was part of Radio Rwanda. He continued to work for the National Radio after the genocide.

Mukeshabatware gained a reputation for his sense of humour, his versatile talent of impersonation and his command of the subtleties of the Rwandan language. He hails from the former prefecture of Gikongoro, neighbouring the prefecture of Butare.

The Gacaca courts, adapted from a form of Rwandan traditional justice, are tasked with trying suspected perpetrators of the 1994 Rwandan genocide which left some 800,000  people dead, according to the UN.   These village courts, whose judges are elected from the community, can hand down sentences up to life imprisonment, which is now the maximum penalty in Rwanda. They have so far tried more than a million people.


© Hirondelle News Agency