Kigali, February 22, 2010 (FH) - A widely known traditional healer, Epaphrodite Nzeyimana, and a 88-year old male nurse, Barnabé Rwanyabugigira, were both sentenced on Sunday to 30 years in prison for their role in the 1994 genocide.

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According to Radio Rwanda, Epaphrodite Nzeyimana's judgment was meted out by a Gacaca court from Kigali which had relocated for this rehearing trial to Kamonyi district (Central Rwanda).

The healer was found guilty of genocide, of organizing meetings inciting to commit genocide, and of complicity in several murders in Kamonyi district.

He had been acquitted last year on appeal but the plaintiffs had been granted the right to a rehearing trial.

Nzeyimana disappeared from his home after the genocide but was discovered years later in Muhanga district (South of Rwanda) where he was living under a new name - Isodore Mahoro - and practicing a new profession, as traditional healer.

He became famous overnight, in 2005, when he publicly claimed he had found a remedy against AIDS. Patients from all over Rwanda flocked to his compound thus turned into a crowded make-shift hospital.

Also on Sunday, another Gacaca court in Kamonyi district confirmed on appeal the sentence of 30 years' term which had been handed down in December 2009 against Barnabé Rwanyabugigira.

A the time of the genocide, he had been responsible of the pharmacy of Remera-Rukoma Hospital, owned by the Presbyterian Church in Rwanda (PCR).

The Gacaca appeal court found him guilty of "complicity in the murder of his colleague Marie Claire Umugiraneza and of other Tutsis who had sought refuge [in the pharmacy] in 1994".

According to testimonies heard during the trial, Barnabé Rwanyabugigira had pretended that he did not know these people, and that he was unrelated to them, prior to handing them over to the killers.

On February 14, one of the convicted murderers of Marie Claire Umugiraneza, who took the stand as a witness, declared that the old man had asked his colleague to "take off the hospital smock before being killed".

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