Belgian ‘genocide priest’ to face justice at home
5 October 2005
BRUSSELS – Rwanda is to allow a Belgian priest charged with genocide crimes to face trial in his home country, it emerged on Wednesday.
Guy Theunis was arrested on 6 September and was set to become the first foreigner to be brought before a Rwandan village court, or ‘gacaca’, set up to investigate the genocide that killed 800 000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus in 1994.
However, international observers, including Human Rights Watch, and the Belgian government were shocked by his arrest and intense diplomatic talks have been under way since on the case.
On Wednesday, Le Soir reported that Belgian Foreign Minister Karel De Gucht was “delighted” that Theunis was to be extradited to Belgium to face trial here.
De Gucht had formally requested his Rwandan counterpart Charles Murigande extradite the 60-year-old Catholic priest.
In a statement, De Gucht said: “The Rwandan authorities have officially replied to Belgium’s request to handle the Theunis case in our country. The reply is positive.”
He said the case was currently being transferred by Kigali’s court to the Belgian judiciary and then Theunis could return home.
De Gucht said the Belgian and Rwandan authorities would hold further discussions about the trying of the case.
Theunis denies the charges that he was guilty of inciting genocide through republishing articles from the extremist publication Kangura in his Dialogue magazine.
He says he personally wrote articles to press for human rights and that Kangura articles only ever appeared as part of a press review.
Former Kangura editor Hassan Ngeze has been sentenced to life in prison by the United Nations court set up to try those responsible for genocide.
The gacaca referred Theunis to a higher, conventional court which has in its power the right to hand down the death penalty.
The priest worked as a missionary in Rwanda, which is a former Belgian colony, from 1970 until 1994.
[Copyright Expatica News 2005]
Subject: Belgian news