Jail term sought for Rwanda driver over genocide

Rwanda Prosecutors called Muhayimana an 'opportunist' who served the perpetrators of genocide.  By Thomas COEX AFPFile
DEC 15, 2021 LISTEN
Prosecutors called Muhayimana an 'opportunist' who served the perpetrators of genocide. By Thomas COEX AFPFile

French prosecutors on Wednesday asked for a 15-year jail term for a former hotel driver accused of complicity in Rwanda's 1994 genocide.

French-Rwandan Claude Muhayimana is on trial for complicity in genocide and in crimes against humanity for his alleged role in transporting Hutu militiamen who massacred hundreds of Tutsis.

Muhayimana, who investigators say also hid Tutsis at risk of death and helped some escape, fled after the genocide and gained French nationality in 2010.

The now 60-year-old "contributed to the genocide by driving and transporting the killers over a very long period of three months", the prosecutor told the court, calling Muhayimana "an essential part of the operation to hunt down every last Tutsi".

The prosecutor described Muhayimana as "an opportunist" who he said "adapted to the genocide by serving the perpetrators of the genocide".

Muhayimana, who was married to a Tutsi woman at the time, has denied the charges.

Investigators also discovered that he had hidden Tutsis at risk of death and helped some flee.

Some 800,000 people died between April and July 1994 as the extremist Hutu regime tried to wipe out Rwanda's Tutsi minority, causing one of the 20th century's biggest massacres.

The verdict in the trial is due on Thursday after four weeks of proceedings involving around 50 witnesses, some who were flown in from Rwanda.

Muhayimana's trial is the third in France linked to the genocide. In the previous ones, an army captain was sentenced to 25 years and two mayors to life imprisonment.

France has in the past refused requests to extradite suspects to Rwanda, prompting President Paul Kagame to accuse Paris of denying Rwandans justice.

But relations between the two countries have warmed considerably since a historians' report commissioned by President Emmanuel Macron and released in March recognised France's "overwhelming" responsibilities in failing to halt the massacres.

That was followed by a visit by Macron to Kigali in May, when he acknowledged that his country had ignored warnings of the impending massacres while backing the genocidal regime.

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