Arusha, December 2, 2011 (FH) - Genocide-convict Michel Bagaragaza was on Monday released from his Swedish jail after having served two-third of an eight year sentence handed down by the ICTR for complicity to commit genocide.

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Is the first time that the Tribunal has granted early release to one of its convicts. Bagaragaza was the former head of Rwandan Tea Authority.

‘'He was released yesterday (Thursday) at 8.00 and is still in a guest house. He has applied for a political asylum and is waiting for the response, may be in mid December,'' ICTR Prison Commander, Saidou Guindo told Hirondelle News Agency Friday.

Last October, ICTR President Judge Khalida Rachid Khan explained in her ruling on the early release of Bagaragaza  that it was motivated by several factors including jurisprudence of the International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia (ICTY) regarding release after two-third of a sentence served, the fact that Bagaragaza confessed to crimes and expressed remorse and on his good behavior in jail as attested by the Swedish prison authorities.

Bagaragaza surrendered himself to the ICTR on August 15, 2005 and pleaded guilty to complicity to commit genocide. He confessed to stocking arms used during the genocide at the Rubaya tea factory in Gisenyi prefecture (northern Rwanda). He also said he gave money, arms and the use of tea factory vehicles to Interahamwe militia who were massacring Tutsis, out of fears for the safety of himself and his family.

On November 17, 2009, the ICTR found Bagaragaza guilty and sentenced him to eight years in jail with credit for the time already served in the ICTR Detention Facility since 2005. He was sent to Sweden in July 2010 to complete his sentence.

In the past, the ICTR has always refused requests for early release of its convicts. In April 2009, Italy unilaterally released Italo-Belgian ICTR convict Georges Ruggiu, in violation of the ICTR Statute. Ruggiu also pleaded guilty before the ICTR. He is the only non-Rwandan to have been tried by the Tribunal.


© Hirondelle News Agency