Rwandan ex-mayor acquitted of genocide

The United Nations genocide tribunal for Rwanda on Tuesday acquitted a former Rwandan mayor accused of crimes against humanity for his alleged role in the country’s 1994 ethnic massacres.

Judges at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) found Jean Mpambara innocent of all three charges he had faced: genocide, complicity to commit genocide and extermination.

“The court declares the accused not guilty on all counts and orders his immediate release,” said Chief Judge Jai Ran Reddy, delivering the verdict, which noted “significant contradictions” in witness testimony during the trial.

Mpambara is only the fourth defendant to be acquitted by the ICTR on charges stemming from the genocide in which about 800 000 people, mainly minority Tutsis and moderate Hutus, were slaughtered by Hutu extremists.

Twenty-five suspects have been convicted.

Mpambara, the former mayor of Rukara commune in eastern Rwanda, had pleaded not guilty to all the charges for which prosecutors had urged his conviction and the imposition of a life prison sentence.

According to the indictment, Mpambara, a Hutu, “organised and executed” the killing of more than 2 500 Tutsis in his commune at the height of the 100-day killing genocide between April and July 1994.

But in closing arguments in May, defence lawyers argued that the prosecution had failed to prove their case.

The ex-mayor was arrested in 2001 in a refugee camp in Tanzania and transferred to the ICTR detention facility in the northern Tanzanian town of Arusha. His trial opened last September.—Sapa-AFP

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