Kigali, September 10, 2014 (FH) – A Rwandan appeals court on Tuesday acquitted a former senator whom a lower court had sentenced to life in jail for participating in the 1994 genocide.

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The High Court in Kigali found that the first-instance judge erred in convicting ex-parliamentarian Anastase Nzirasanaho on contradictory evidence.

Nzirasanaho, a trained agricultural engineer, had been found guilty of distributing arms that were used to kill Tutsis in his native Mataba district, in the former Ruhengeri prefecture of northern Rwanda.

During the appeals hearings, six defence witnesses told the court that the arms in question were distributed by a soldier and not by Nzirasanaho.

Nzirasanaho appeared before a “gacaca” village court in 2008, when he was still in the Senate. The gacaca court classed him as a suspected “planner” of the genocide. His case was therefore referred to a normal court, since the gacaca courts did not have jurisdiction to try this category of suspect.

The gacaca courts, inspired by traditional village meetings where elders settled differences sitting on the grass (gacaca in the Rwandan language), officially finished their work in 2012 after trying more than a million people in ten years.