Finnish court sentences Rwandan Francois Bazaramba to life for 1994 genocide in home country

The Associated Press ~ staff The News
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HELSINKI, Finland — A Finnish court sentenced Rwandan Francois Bazaramba on Friday to life imprisonment for committing genocide in his home country in 1994.

The 59-year-old pastor, who has lived in Finland since 2003, was found guilty of intending to “destroy in whole or part the Rwandan Tutsis as a group” in 1994, according to the verdict.

The Porvoo District Court said Bazaramba, a member of the majority Hutu tribe, had spread anti-Tutsi propaganda and incited Hutus “to killings through fomenting anger and contempt towards Tutsis.”

The 115-page ruling, which was delivered as a written statement, also said Bazaramba had forced Tutsis to leave their homes and had ordered Hutus to burn down their homes.

“The court has found Bazaramba guilty of an offence which ... would be judged as murder or incitement to murder,” the ruling said. “For those crimes the only possible punishment is life imprisonment.”

Bazaramba had denied all the charges. It was not immediately clear if he would appeal.

The 1994 genocide was carried out by Hutu extremists against the Tutsi minority and Hutu moderates. More than 500,000 people were killed in 100 days.

Bazaramba lives in the southern Finnish town of Porvoo, 30 miles (50 kilometres) east of the capital, Helsinki. He has been in police custody since April 2007 while the National Bureau of Investigation conducted an investigation, mostly in Rwanda and neighbouring countries.

The trial opened in September 2009 in Porvoo, and several sessions were also held in Rwanda and Tanzania. During the case the court heard 68 witnesses, mostly in Rwanda and other African countries. Rwandan officials also provided evidence, including witness statements.

Last year, Finland declined a request by Rwanda to extradite Bazaramba, saying he might not receive a fair trial in his home country. The Justice Ministry said its decision was based on a ruling by the International Criminal Tribunal, which has prohibited referring similar cases to Rwandan courts.

The case was tried in Finland because the Nordic country has signed international agreements to investigate and try cases of genocide, if a suspect is living in Finland or has been apprehended here.

Organizations: Porvoo District Court, National Bureau of Investigation, Justice Ministry International Criminal Tribunal Nordic

Geographic location: Finland, HELSINKI, Rwanda Porvoo Southern Finnish Tanzania

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