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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

US: Kansas Rejects Kobagaya's Defense

A Federal judge in the US state of Kansas this Monday rejected a defense bid filed by Lazare Kobagaya, a Rwandan genocide suspect to throw out an indictment filed against him four years ago.
Attorneys for Kobagaya, 84, had sought for the dismissal of the case on grounds that US government payments to poor witnesses in Rwanda make a fair trial impossible. The government had argued the payments to witnesses for their time and expenses were proper.
US district Judge Monti Belot ruled those payments were reasonable adding that the dismissal would not be appropriate even if payments had been improper. Kobagaya stands trial next week on charges of fraud and unlawfully obtaining US citizenship in 2006 by claiming he lived in Burundi from 1993 to 1995.
However, Federal prosecutors allege he was in Rwanda in 1994 and participated in the genocide. Kobagaya is said to have been living in a refugee camp in eastern DRC before moving to the US in 2006 where he has been living with his sons in the state of Kansas.
He is accused of ordering the deaths of hundreds of people in Nyakizu in present-day Southern Province during the 1994 genocide against Tutsi that killed more than a million people. Kobagaya’s lawyers have asked for the case to be dismissed on the grounds that the US has no subpoena powers to compel witnesses who are currently living in Africa to come and testify.
Prosecutors in this case say witnesses tell them Kobagaya worked with Francois Bazaramba in planning and carrying out the 1994 massacres. Bazaramba, a former Baptist priest has since 2007 been on trial in Finland for genocide crimes. Kobagaya has in the past testified in the case of Bazaramba where he said he didn’t know Bazaramba participated in the genocide.
The U.S. has no criminal jurisdiction over crimes committed abroad, but it can prosecute someone for lying on a naturalization form, which specifically asks applicants if they have participated in genocide.
Prosecutors say Kobagaya lied on immigration and citizenship documents, saying he had moved from Rwanda to Burundi in 1993. He also checked a box saying he had not participated in the genocide. If convicted, Kobagaya faces deportation. On January 28, the US government deported to Rwanda Mudahinyuka Jean Marie Vianney, alias Zuzu, a genocide fugitive who was convicted to 19 years imprisonment by the Gacaca court of Nyakabanda sector here in Kigali.

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