1 Jun 2009

Finland charges Rwanda suspect with genocide

10:52 pm on 1 June 2009

Finland has charged a former pastor at a Baptist church in Rwanda with genocide for his alleged role in the mass killings in the African country in 1994.

Francois Bazaramba, 58, has been in detention in Finland since April 2007 but the government said in February it would not extradite him because it feared he would not get a fair trial in Rwanda.

State prosecutor Raija Toiviainen said she had enough evidence to bring the charges to the court, with about 100 witnesses heard.

The maximum sentence would be a life sentence if Mr Bazaramba is found guilty.

Ms Toiviainen said he was also charged with 15 counts of murder.

"It is obvious according to the pre-trial investigation that the man has committed a crime of genocide in the municipality of Nyakizu in April and May 1994 with intent to destroy the Rwandan Tutsis partly or totally," the Prosecutor General's Office said in a statement.

Rwanda accuses Mr Bazaramba of orchestrating the murder of 5,000 people in the country in 1994.

A total of about 800,000 minority Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed in the masscares carried out by Hutu militias.

Local media said Mr Bazaramba arrived in Finland in 2003 and sought asylum.

Mr Bazaramba's lawyer, Ville Hoikkala, said his client was not in a position where he could have led any killings.

"He is not guilty, and we have evidence that some of the witnesses heard in Rwanda were tortured," Mr Hoikkala said.

A spokesperson for the district court in Porvoo, 50km from Helsinki, said the goal was for pre-trial hearings to start in the next few weeks and a trial to begin in the northern hemisphere autumn.