A French court sentenced a former Rwandan army captain to 25 years in prison over a 1994 genocide, in a landmark ruling just weeks ahead of the massacre’s 20th anniversary.
Pascal Simbikangwa, a 54-year-old former member of the Rwandan presidential guard, was on Friday found guilty of perpetrating genocide and of complicity in crimes against humanity.
Prosecutors in the trial — the first of its kind in France — have asked for life imprisonment for Simbikangwa, branding him an ethnic “cleanser” who was “radically committed” to his work and a “man capable of the worst.”
Photo: AFP / INTERPOL
The defense had requested he be acquitted, saying the trial was politically motivated and describing witnesses as unreliable and guided by spite, indoctrination or fear.
The defendant himself, who denied all charges against him, took the stand one last time on Friday morning, calling on the court to recognize his “innocence.”
“In a few moments you will be alone with your conscience, you are called upon to decide my fate,” he told the jury.
“To all Tutsi victims, I am thinking of them. Sorry for the weaknesses of my condition that did not allow me to help you like I would have wanted to,” he said.
The jury then retired to deliberate their verdict on events that took place two decades ago in the small central African country, about 6,000km away.
The trial was being closely watched in France, which has long been accused of failing to rein in the Rwandan regime at the time of the genocide between April and July 1994 that left 800,000 dead.
And in a rare case for France, it is being filmed, with recordings due to be available once the case is concluded.
Simbikangwa, who is in a wheelchair after a 1986 car accident left him paraplegic, was accused of inciting, organizing and aiding massacres during the genocide, particularly by supplying arms and instructions to Hutu militia, who were manning road blocks and killing Tutsi men, women and children.
He was arrested in 2008 on the French Indian Ocean island of Mayotte, after which Paris refused to extradite him to Rwanda and decided to try him under laws that allow French courts to consider cases of genocide.
Over the past six weeks of trial Simbikangwa systematically minimized his role and his understanding of the massacres that were committed in 1994.
To general amazement, he said on the third day of trial that he had never seen a single corpse during the genocide, unleashed mainly on the minority Tutsi community after Hutu former Rwandan president Juvenal Habyarimana was assassinated on April 6, 1994.
Pressed on the subject, he responded that his disability forced him to “lie down a bit” when he went out in cars.
Lawyers for the former army captain have sought to discredit witnesses, saying some had been coerced or that they were prisoners hoping to win shorter sentences.
They have also said that they did not have the means to properly defend Simbikangwa and had not even been able to visit Rwanda to verify prosecution evidence.
And the defendant was found to have saved a certain number of Tutsis.
However, witnesses — even those he saved — have painted a picture of a man who was closely involved in the genocide, playing a lead role in checkpoints that identified Tutsis, stockpiling weapons at his home and distributing them.
Prosecutor Bruno Sturlese had asked the jury to declare him guilty of genocide, not only of complicity.
“We will ask ourselves the question of whether or not we will appeal,” defense attorney Fabrice Epstein said, denouncing what he called a “political trial.”
CLOSELY TRACKED: A US officer said that the warplanes were watched as they flew from Russia by way of Iran and Syria to Libya and were photographed multiple times The US Africa Command flatly rejected Russian claims that Moscow did not deploy fighter jets to Libya, saying on Friday that the 14 aircraft flown in reflect Russia’s long-term goal to establish a foothold in the region that could threaten NATO allies. US Brigadier General Gregory Hadfield, deputy director of intelligence, said that the US tracked the MiG-29s and Su-24 fighter bombers flown in by Russian military, passing through Iran and Syria before landing at Libya’s al-Jufra air base. The base is the main forward airfield for Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar and his self-styled Libyan National Army, which has been waging an
‘SACRIFICED’: Hu Weifeng became the sixth doctor to die from COVID-19 at Wuhan Central Hospital, where calls to raise the alarm over the virus were suppressed The death of a Chinese doctor at Wuhan’s “whistle-blower hospital” has prompted a wave of anger at hospital authorities for not protecting front-line health workers in the face of the COVID-19 outbreak. Hu Weifeng (胡衛鋒), 42, a urologist at Wuhan Central Hospital where the whistle-blower ophthalmologist Li Wenliang (李文亮) worked, died of the virus on Tuesday after a four-month battle. Hu is the sixth doctor from his hospital killed by the virus. Another doctor who spoke out, Ai Fen (艾芬), said that authorities told hospital staff not to wear protective gear so as not to cause panic and reprimanded her for “harming
Singapore’s otters, long adored by the city-state’s nature lovers, are popping up in unexpected places during the COVID-19 lockdown, but their antics have angered some and even sparked calls for a cull. With the streets empty, the creatures have been spotted hanging out by a shopping center, scampering through the lobby of a hospital and even feasting on pricey fish stolen from a pond. While many think of tiny Singapore as a densely populated concrete jungle, it is also relatively green for a busy Asian city, and has patches of rainforest, fairly clean waterways and abundant wildlife. There are estimated to be about
Indonesian officials are forcing people who break social distancing rules to recite Koran verses, stay in “haunted” houses and submit to public shaming on social media as the country battles to contain surging novel coronavirus infections. The Southeast Asian archipelago began deploying about 340,000 troops across two dozen cities to oversee enforcement of measures aimed at halting transmission of the disease, such as wearing masks in public. However, provincial leaders are buttressing these efforts with their own zealous campaigns to fight the coronavirus. Police in western Bengkulu Province have assembled a 40-person squad to find lockdown scofflaws and force them to wear