Rwandan spy chief Karake arrested in London

23rd June 2015, Comments 0 comments

British police have arrested the head of Rwanda's intelligence service on a Spanish warrant relating to alleged crimes during the conflict in the 1990s, officials said Tuesday, sparking outrage from Kigali.

A police spokesman said Karenzi Karake was held on suspicion of war crimes, apparently referring to a 2008 arrest warrant issued by a Spanish court for genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and terrorism.

However, a Spanish judicial source said the first three of those charges have been shelved and Karake was wanted for terrorism offences relating to the deaths of nine Spanish people killed in Rwanda.

The Rwandan government condemned as an "outrage" the arrest of the 54-year-old general, a key player in the country's former rebel Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) and President Paul Kagame's spy chief since 2011.

"Western solidarity in demeaning Africans is unacceptable!!" Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo said on Twitter, calling the arrest "lunacy."

Justice Minister Johnston Busingye has "sought explanation" from British authorities over the move, which came after Karake had been on official business in London for a week, according to Rwanda's New Times newspaper.

Karake was arrested on Saturday morning at London's Heathrow Airport and after an initial court hearing, was remanded in custody pending another hearing on Thursday, the Metropolitan Police said.

Busingye had been due in Spain on Tuesday for a meeting with his counterpart Rafael Catala, but Spanish officials said he had cancelled the visit.

- 'Crimes of terrorism' -

A British police spokesman said Karake was detained by officers from its extradition unit "on a European arrest warrant on behalf of the authorities in Spain, where he is wanted in connection with war crimes against civilians."

Spain's top criminal court issued arrest warrants in 2008 for 40 Rwandan army officers, including Karake, over allegations of genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and terrorism in Rwanda in the 1990s.

The National Court's action was prompted by an investigation into the murder of nine Spaniards who were working with refugees in Rwanda between 1994 and 2000.

The judicial source told AFP that the first three sets of charges had been dropped but "the case is still active for the crimes of terrorism" relating to nine Spanish deaths.

Following Karake's arrest, Spanish prosecutors on Tuesday asked a judge at the National Court to petition British authorities to hand him over to Spain, the source said.

The court could not say when the judge was likely to rule on the request.

- Key player in the regime -

Karake was one of the main commanders of the armed wing of the RPF, the Tutsi rebel group that ended the Rwandan genocide in 1994 and has held power ever since.

At least 800,000 people, mostly from the Tutsi minority, were killed by Hutu militias and government troops during the 100-day slaughter.

The 2008 warrants, which referred to atrocities allegedly committed before and after the genocide, were issued under Spain's doctrine of universal jurisdiction.

This gave national courts the right to probe cases of grave human rights abuses committed abroad, but the doctrine has since been curbed by the ruling conservative government.

The Spanish indictments were criticised by US officials at the time as "outrageous and inaccurate," according to a diplomatic cable sent by the embassy in Kigali and released by WikiLeaks.

A charismatic and intelligent operator, Karake's fortunes have risen and fallen under Kagame's rule.

In April 2010, he was placed under house arrest for "misbehaviour" but was released a few months later and appointed spy chief the following year.

In 2008-2009, Karake was deputy commander of the United Nations-African Union Mission (UNAMID) in Sudan's war-torn Darfur region.

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© 2015 AFP

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