Crime & Courts

Witness: Inmates told to accuse others of genocide

The name of a Kansas man suspected of participating in the 1994 Rwandan genocide was on a list of people whom Rwandan prosecutors and a survivors' organization wanted prisoners to accuse as a condition of their release, a former inmate testified Thursday.

The ex-inmate took the stand for the defense Thursday in the federal trial of Lazare Kobagaya, 84, who faces deportation if convicted of lying to U.S. immigration officials in a case prosecutors have said is the first in the nation requiring proof of genocide. He is charged with unlawfully obtaining U.S. citizenship in 2006 and with fraud and misuse of an alien registration card.

More than 500,000 people were killed in Rwanda during 100 days of violence that began in April 1994. Most of the dead were ethnic Tutsi, while most of the killings were carried out by ethnic Hutu militias, before a Tutsi-led rebel movement took power.

Jean de Dieu Maniraho told jurors the inclusion of Kobagaya on the list of those people to be accused caused "a lot of trouble" at the prison in 2005, triggering fights and arguments that divided prisoners from Nyakizu Commune into two groups.

"Some were saying, 'This is an old man. We don't need to accuse him of something he did not commit,' " Maniraho told jurors through an interpreter. "And the other group... said we have to do what the government wants us to do and what IBUKA wants us to do," a reference to a Tutsi survivors association.

Among those in the latter group, Maniraho testified, was key prosecution witness Valens Murindangabo, a former teacher. Murindangabo had testified earlier in the trial that Kobagaya ordered the killing of Tutsis and the burning of their houses in Nyakizu Commune, where he lived at the time.

Maniraho told jurors on Thursday that IBUKA members would come to transitional camps where prisoners who had confessed to genocide would be held for 30 days before they were allowed to go home.

Under cross-examination questioning, prosecutor Steven Parker got Maniraho to acknowledge that he and Murindangabo had gone to one of those transitional camps after confessing to their crimes, but both men were sent back to prison to serve two more years despite their confessions.

Earlier in the day, the defense called to the stand Francois Patrick Tuyisabe, who was an 18-year-old student home on vacation at the time of the genocide. Tuyisabe said he did not participate in those events because his father told him not to.

Tuyisabe told jurors that during attacks on Tutsis who had fled to Mount Nyakizu, no Hutu children or elderly people were allowed to participate for fear they could be killed in a fight.

Tuyisabe — who testified that he, too, stayed behind in Birambo during the attacks at Mount Nyakizu — was asked whether he saw Kobagaya in Birambo during the attacks.

He replied, "I saw the old man at his home."