, THE HAGUE, December 23- The International Criminal Court (ICC) was to release Rwandan rebel leader Callixte Mbarushimana later on Friday, his lawyer said, making him the first suspect to be freed by the global body.
“Mr Mbarushimana should be released today and arrive at Roissy airport in France around 3:50 pm” (1450 GMT), said his lawyer Arthur Vercken.
Vercken said travel restrictions imposed on Mbarushimana by a UN sanctions committee, which prevented him from leaving the Netherlands, had been lifted.
The ICC meanwhile refused comment when contacted by AFP.
Mbarushimana, 48, spent nearly a year in detention in The Hague, facing 13 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity, before ICC judges Friday dropped charges against him on the grounds of insufficient evidence.
The crimes including murder, rape and persecution, were allegedly committed by his rebel Democratic Forces of the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo in 2009.
ICC chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo on Monday appealed the judges’ decision to release Mbarushimana from the court’s Hague-based detention unit, as well as its decision to drop the charges against the man identified as the FDLR’s executive secretary.
Mbarushimana has chosen to return to France, where he has been living since 2002 and working as a computer specialist, until his arrest on October 11, 2010 following an ICC arrest warrant.
He has political refugee status in France.
Prosecutors had accused him of organising a campaign of attacks against Congolese civilians from Paris using “international and local media channels”.
The attacks perpetrated by the FDLR resulted in 384 civilian deaths between February and October 2009, as well as 135 cases of sexual violence, 521 abductions, 38 cases of torture and five of mutilation, prosecutors said.
Mbarushimana himself has always insisted he was innocent and denounced the “barbarity” of military forces that ravaged Africa’s Great Lakes region.
His arrest arose from a probe into alleged Congolese war crimes referred to the ICC by the Kinshasa government in June 2004.
But he is also under investigation in France for his alleged role in the Rwandan genocide of about 800,000 people, mostly ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus.