Former Rwandan intelligence official convicted in France

March 15, 2014 at 2:17 PM
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PARIS, March 15 (UPI) -- Pascal Simbikangwa, former head of the Rwandan intelligence service, was sentenced to 25 years in a French prison for his part in the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

Simbikangwa was convicted after a six-week trial and sentenced Friday, Radio France Internationale reported.

During the trial, Simbikangwa denied that he was aware of the massacre of 800,000 people, mostly ethnic Tutsis 20 years ago, the New York Times reported. He said he spent most of the time in his house and was usually reclining during car trips because of health problems.

"I don't say that there weren't any dead people," Simbikangwa said. "But me, I haven't seen them."

Simbikangwa is a Hutu and a cousin of Rwandan President Juvénal Habyarimana, who was killed in the 1994 plane crash that was followed by the massacre. But his wife and mother are Tutsi, and Tutsi neighbors testified that he protected them.

"Pascal had a right over life and death," Isaie Harindintwari, who lived across from Simbikangwa in Kigali, said. "I was untouchable because I was his Tutsi."

Simbikangwa, who was arrested in 2009 on Mayotte, a French island in the Indian Ocean, is the first person to be found guilty in a French court of crimes connected to the Rwandan genocide.

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