Rwandan genocide appeal begins in Finnish court

HELSINKI — The appeals trial of a Rwandan described by prosecutors as one of the most important leaders of the Hutu genocide of minority Tutsi in Rwanda in 1994 began in Helsinki on Monday.

Francois Bazaramba, 60, was convicted of acts of genocide in a lower court in June 2010 and sentenced to life in prison, although he was acquitted of several of the murder charges, according to court documents obtained by AFP.

Both sides appealed the verdict in April.

“(Francois) Bazaramba was one of the most significant leaders of genocide in the Nyakizu province (of Rwanda),” according to documents from the office of state prosecutor Raija Toiviainen.

Bazaramba, who moved to Finland in 2003 and has sought asylum in the Nordic country, denied the genocide charges.

The defendant, a Hutu, was accused among other things of murdering or ordering the murder of numerous Tutsis in the province, including women and children.

He was further accused of systematically persecuting and displacing Tutsis and seizing their property, and for participating in and partly ordering an ethnic purge in Cyahinda province which left 37,000 people dead, including crowds of Tutsis and moderate Hutus who had sought shelter in a church.

According to the ruling of the district court of Itae-Uusimaa last year, “For those crimes, the only possible punishment is life imprisonment.”

Bazaramba was arrested by Finnish police in April 2007 on suspicion of taking part in the Rwandan genocide, in which at least 800,000 people, most of them ethnic Tutsis, were killed within six weeks by Hutu extremists.

Finnish courts decided to try Bazaramba since the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, set up in Tanzania by the United Nations, was no longer accepting new cases.

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