Washington DC, April 26, 2011 (FH) - Trial of Lazare Kobagaya, a 84-year old Rwandan accused of unlawfully obtaining US citizenship in 2006 and with fraud and misuse of an alien registration card opened on Tuesday in Wichita, Texas (USA).

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The defendant hails from Southern Rwanda. He has been living in the US since 2005, when he immigrated to rejoin family members.

Prosecution states that Kobagaya concealed that he was in Rwanda during the 1994 genocide, lying during immigration proceedings in Wichita when he said that he lived in Burundi from 1993 to 1995. The American Justice Department alleges that in April 1994 Kobagaya was in Rwanda, encouraging Hutus to burn down Tutsi houses and to kill Tutsi wives of Hutus.

According to Kobagaya's defence lawyers, there is no chance that prosecution witnesses would speak the truth as they would fear retaliation when going back to Rwanda.

Over 50 witnesses have been brought from Africa to testify for both sides.

If convicted, Kobagaya would face up to ten years in prison. Moreover, he could be deported if his US citizenship were to be revoked.

On Tuesday, local newspaper The Wachita Eagle noted that only 2 jurors out of 12 required had been seated. The selection is difficult, as most people have never heard about Rwanda. Judge Monti Belot also warned potential jurors that they would have to tolerate graphic testimony about mass killings.

The trial is expected to last 10 weeks.

Justice Department said it was the first criminal prosecution in America requiring proof of genocide.


© Hirondelle News Agency