/ 20 November 2008

Rwandan suspect sent to France

A top Rwandan official, sought in connection with the assassination that sparked the country’s 1994 genocide, was transferred on Wednesday from Germany to France, which had issued an arrest warrant for her.

Rose Kabuye was to go before a French judge investigating her alleged role in the shooting down of a plane carrying Rwanda’s former president, killing him and setting off 100 days of ethnic slaughter.

Her attorney, Bernard Maingain, said Kabuye was not handcuffed during the flight to Paris from Frankfurt, where she was arrested on November 9.

Kabuye, who is chief of protocol for current Rwandan President Paul Kagame, was arrested on suspicion that 14 years ago she housed Tutsi militants accused of shooting down the plane carrying Rwanda’s then-president, Juvenal Habyarimana.

Kabuye’s lawyer has denied that she was involved in the plane crash.

France has been investigating the 1994 crash because the two pilots were French nationals. A French judge issued warrants for Kabuye and eight other Kagame associates in connection with the attack.

After Habyarimana’s death, extremists from his Hutu tribe killed more than 500 000 people, mostly minority Tutsis, before rebels under Kagame drove them from the country.

The arrest of Kabuye comes as French President Nicolas Sarkozy, in office since 2007, works to fully normalise ties with Rwanda.

The Rwandan government claims that France armed the Hutu militias and former government troops who led the genocide. French officials have repeatedly denied that France, which had soldiers in Rwanda, aided or directed the Hutu forces.

In 1998 a French parliamentary panel absolved France of responsibility in the slaughter. But the lawmakers said successive French governments had given diplomatic and military support to Rwanda’s extremist government between 1990 and 1994.

Last week Kagame accused French authorities of breaking international law by ordering Kabuye’s arrest. He said France should pursue any claims through international courts.

Meanwhile, tens of thousands of Rwandans held protests against Kabuye’s arrest. On Wednesday in the capital Kigali protesters converged at the German Embassy and the offices of German media broadcaster Deutsche Welle. They were holding banners and placards as police in riot gear, carrying batons and shields, watched.

Many demonstrators wore T-shirts with slogans written in the national language, Kinyarwanda, saying ”Free Our Rose” and ”Rose and the rest are victims”. – Sapa-AP