Thursday, September 17, 2009

Leading Rwanda genocide suspect pleads guilty

ARUSHA, Tanzania (AFP) – A close associate of former Rwandan president Juvenal Habyarimana, whose murder triggered the country's 1994 genocide, pleaded guilty Thursday to complicity in the slaughter.

Michel Bagaragaza, who headed Rwanda's tea industry, admitted playing a role in the massacres of Tutsis and moderate Hutus by Hutu extremists at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR). In particular he had allowed the militants to use tea factory vehicles on their rampages.

Bagaragaza, who had testified against other suspects in earlier hearings of the court, including Harbyarimana's brother-in-law, had been detained in the Netherlands. Claiming to fear for his life, he had secured a deal with the ICTR's prosecutor whereby in return for his testimony against other defendants he would be tried in Europe. But attempts to have him tried in Norway and the Netherlands came to nothing and he was sent to the Arusha court in May last year.

Formed in late 1994, the UN-backed ICTR is responsible for judging primary suspects in the Rwanda genocide.

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