, KIGALI, Jan 25 – A Rwandan sought by Kigali in connection with the 1994 genocide and deported by Canada after a long legal battle arrived late Tuesday night in the Rwandan capital.
Leon Mugesera, a linguist who had lived in Canada since 1993, is wanted by the Rwandan authorities for alleged incitement to genocide in a speech he delivered two years before the 1994 genocide that claimed the lives of 800,000 people, mainly minority Tutsis.
The former politician, wearing a coat and ties, emerged handcuffed from a special flight after it landed in Kigali. Police officers read him his rights before escorting him to a police vehicle. He looked somewhat surprised at all the television cameras but appeared calm and cooperative.
None of his relatives living in Rwanda came to the airport to meet him.
“Tonight Mugesera is going with our investigators to be briefed on his charges,” Rwanda Police Spokesman Theos Badege told reporters at the airport.
“And then he will be placed in custody in a police detention facility. According to the law we have three days to charge him.”
Badege would not elaborate on where Mugesera would be held. When asked, he was unable to tell reporters what the formal charges were.
Earlier Tuesday the Rwandan authorities had welcomed the decision by a Canadian court to reject the final appeal by Mugesera who has been fighting deportation to Rwanda for the past 16 years.
“Reaction here in Rwanda is very positive. The victims of Mugesera’s speech are finally going to get justice,” Rwandan Foreign Affairs Minister Louise Mushikiwabo told AFP.
“It’s unfortunate that the extradition took so long, but it’s still good news. It sends an important signal to all those who are being sought by Rwanda for their role in the genocide,” she said.
“For us Rwandans it is also the culmination of the progress made in the sector of the judiciary since the end of the genocide,” she went on.
“It is exciting that this chapter is finally closed, after 16 years of all sorts of abuse of process. The task ahead is one for which we are well prepared — a fair and transparent trial,” Prosecutor General Martin Ngoga said.
“The new era is unfolding and sooner than later, Rwandans will witness what they have longed for – to see trials taking place where genocide was committed,” he said.
Western countries and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) have long hesitated to transfer indicted genocide suspects living abroad or detainees to Rwanda’s national jurisdiction, fearing they would face the death penalty or be denied a fair trial.
Kigali abolished the death penalty in 2007 and has committed to ensuring that indictees sent back home for trial will be treated according to international standards.