Paris, May 18, 2011 (FH) - Rwanda's extradition request for Agathe Habyarimana will be heard by a French court on June 29, Hirondelle News Agency learned on Wednesday.

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The Paris Appeals court also decided during Wednesday's hearing that the widow of late President Juvénal Habyarimana was to remain free under legal restrictions pending trial.

Dressed in a pink boubou, the former First Lady of Rwanda, 69, attended the hearing  but did not comment on the decision.

Agathe Habyarimana was briefly taken into custody on March 2, 2010, on grounds of an international arrest warrant issued against her by Rwanda in 2009. However, she was released the same day with an order to report regularly to the authorities and not to leave the territory of France. Ironically, a July 2010 decision on her residence status (still under appeal) deemed her a threat to public order and invited her to leave French territory immediately or face possible expulsion. This leaves her in an unprecedented and highly ambiguous legal situation.

Agathe Habyarimana's questioning in France followed an historic February 2010 visit to Kigali by French president Nicolas Sarkozy which sealed the first warming of relations between Paris and Kigali since 1994.  Relations had previously been soured by Rwandan allegations of French involvement in the genocide, and a French judicial inquiry alleging that current Rwandan president Paul Kagame ordered the April 6, 1994 downing of the plane that killed Juvénal Habyarimana and sparked the genocide.

As for Rwanda's extradition request, it is unlikely to be met. France's Cour de Cassation, the highest court of appeal, has turned down such requests in the past on grounds that the Rwandan judicial system does not meet international norms and that accused persons are therefore not guaranteed a fair trial.   

Judges of the Paris Appeals court indicated on Wednesday that they would not pronounce any decision on the May 29 hearing before September due to judicial recess.

Meanwhile, the first official visit to France of President Paul Kagame is currently being discussed between French and Rwandan authorities but no date has yet been set.


© Hirondelle News Agency