Paris, September 28, 2011 (FH) -  The Rwandan minister of Public Works in the 1994 interim government, Hyacinthe Rafiki Nsengiyumva, was freed under legal restrictions after spending 51 days on remand in a jail in Paris, according to a decision taken by a Parisian appeals court on Wednesday during a preliminary hearing.

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Three hours earlier the same court, presided over by Judge Edith Boizette, had rejected Rwanda's request to extradite Agathe Habyarimana, the widow of the Rwandan President killed on April 6, 1994, when his plane was shot down.

Hyacinthe Rafiki Nsengiyumva was arrested in his home in Créteil, near Paris, and placed in custody on August 9, following an extradition request issued by Rwanda in 2008.

Wearing a striped shirt and glasses, the defendant answered with studied politeness the presiding judge's questions. The first one raised a doubt about his identity. "No, I was not born in Rwanda but in Congo, on July 7, 1960", contrary to what the Rwandan authorities indicated in their arrest warrant. "But I am the person they are looking for and ready to respond to the charges brought against me".

In turn, Judge Boizette explained the process having led to Nsengiyumva's arrest. "Mr. Rafiki was arrested following a red notice apparently issued by Interpol on grounds of an international arrest warrant issued by Rwanda's General Prosecutor on June 24, 2008".

The Rwandan arrest warrant contained charges of genocide, complicity of genocide and crimes against humanity for crimes allegedly committed  by the defendant "between April 6 and July 17, 1994 [...] in Kigali, Gitarama and elsewhere in Rwanda".

"We have only received a copy in English of this warrant, which has not been translated", the presiding judge stated.

A second arrest warrant was issued by Rwanda on August 17 and transmitted to the French Justice on September 5. "Rwanda didn't express a formal extradition request. I suppose that what we received was, implicitly,  an extradition request", Judge Boizette added.

Nsengiyumva's lawyer Vincent-Courcelle Labrousse argued that "Rwanda issued an indictment three years after issuing an arrest warrant. That's not serious ! "

"Mr. Nsengiyumva is not the kind of man hiding in the forest to escape justice", he pursued brandishing a letter sent in 1995 to Richard Goldstone, the then ICTR's Prosecutor, in which the former Minister declared himself ready to appear in justice.

Vincent Courcelle-Labrousse further claimed that  he could prove that,"during the alleged period of the crimes", his client "was not in Rwanda".

Mr. Nsengiyumva's wife told Hirondelle News Agency: "on April 8 [1994], my husband took me to the hospital because I was about to give birth (...) It's only later that day, in the evening, that Théoneste Bagosora [then the cabinet director at the Ministry of Defence] came to ask him to participate in a crisis meeting" which led to the creation of the Interim government. Nsengiyumva was then appointed Minister of Public Works.

Hyacinthe Rafiki Nsengiyumva  was at the time Cabinet Director for the Ministry of Public Works and a member of the PSD, a legal opposition party under Habyarimana's regime.

"We left Kigali on the 12 together with all other ministers when the interim government moved to Gitarama", Mrs. Nsengiyumva further explained. "Four or five days later, we fled to Gisenyi and from there to Kenya via Goma, on April 21". According to her, Mr. Nsengiyumva only came back to Rwanda on May 16, as attests a visa in his passport, that is weeks after the massacre in Nyundo he is held responsible for.

After the genocide, Nsengiyumva stayed in Kenya and Congo while his wife and children lived in France and acquired French citizenship. He joined them only in December 2008, when he was issued a residence permit in France.

The proper hearing regarding the extradition request has been fixed for November 9.


© Hirondelle News Agency