Rwandan witness disputes French judge's report

A Rwandan witness has accused a French judge of distorting his testimony in a probe into the killing of a former president that sparked the country’s genocide and prompted Rwanda to cut diplomatic ties with France.

It was the latest blow to Judge Jean-Louis Bruguiere, who has been heavily criticised by Rwanda after calling for President Paul Kagame, a Tutsi, to face trial over the assassination of his Hutu predecessor Juvenal Habyarimana in 1994.

Last month, the French judge filed a 64-page document with the Paris public prosecutor’s office, the culmination of an inquiry requested by the families of the French crew flying Habyarimana’s plane and the late leader’s wife, Agathe.

In a letter seen by Reuters on Monday, Emmanuel Ruzigana criticised Bruguiere’s report, which suggests he belonged to “Network Commando”, a group accused of shooting down Habyarimana’s plane on April 6 1994.

The killings began shortly after Habyarimana’s murder. Over the next 100 days, extremists from the Hutu majority hacked and beat to death 800 000 minority Tutsis and politically moderate Hutus.

“I categorically refute all that was attributed to me,” Ruzigana said in a letter to Bruguiere.

The report said Ruzigana, a former soldier with the Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA) who gave his evidence in March 2004, had confirmed the existence of “Network Commando” and its involvement in the missile attack on Habyarimana’s Falcon 50 jet.

The dossier also said Ruzigana had told investigators he had been informed about plans to kill the country’s leader two weeks before it happened.

“I am bitterly surprised to find that on page 23 of your document you wrongly attributed my association with Network Commando, a group whose existence I did not know,” Ruzigana said.

“In the same document ... you even went further to confirm lies that I knew who shot down the plane, yet I told you that I wasn’t aware of such a thing.”

Bruguiere could not comment on the case that has enraged the Rwandan authorities, who say it is a cover-up for France’s suspected role in arming and training those who carried out the ethnic genocide.

France, one of the key supporters of the Hutu-led regime that governed the Central African country in the years leading up to the genocide, has always denied involvement in the massacres.

Last month Rwanda gave France’s ambassador 24 hours to leave the country.
The breakdown in diplomatic relations came a month after Rwanda launched an investigation into accusations France helped the Hutu government in the slaughter.—Reuters

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