Kigali, August 11, 2011 - A court in southern Rwanda on Thursday acquitted former presidential advisor Runyinya Barabwiriza of all charges including planning and inciting the 1994 genocide. Runyinya was diplomatic advisor to the late president Juvénal Habyarimana.

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Barabwiriza has been in jail for 16 years. He has been on trial since April this year. On June 28, the prosecutor asked the court to sentence him to life imprisonment.

"The court has just handed down its judgment which is acquittal on all charges," Protais Mutembe, one of his lawyers, told Hirondelle News Agency by phone.

"He was present in court, dressed in the pink clothes worn by Rwandan prisoners," Mutembe added. The lawyer said the court took four hours reading the judgment.

Charles Kaliwabo, spokesman for Rwanda's courts and tribunals, confirmed the news. "The judgment has been handed down. He has been acquitted," Kaliwabo told Hirondelle.

Runyinya Barabwiriza, a botanist by training, taught at the National University of Rwanda as well as advising Habyarimana. From June 1993 he also headed the president's MRND party in the southern Butare prefecture.

In a recent report, Rwanda's human rights commission called in vain for his immediate release.

As a member of Habyarimana's diplomatic delegation, Barabwiriza was stuck in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, from April 6 to July 5, 1994. Habyarimana was killed on April 6 when his plane was shot down over Kigali returning from Tanzania.

Barabwiriza presented as an alibi his absence from Rwanda during most of the genocide. The prosecutor had argued, however, that Barabwiriza planned genocide before April 6, 1994, and that massacres perpetrated after that date were the result of his planning.

When he returned to Rwanda on July 5, 1994, Barabwiriza first went to Cyangugu in the southwest and then to Kigali where he was arrested two months later.

Originally from the southern prefecture of Gikongoro, Barabwiriza obtained his further education at the National University of Rwanda, the Catholic University in Louvain, Belgium, and the University of Gembloux which is also in the former colonial power Belgium.   


© Hirondelle News Agency