Belgian priest faces death on genocide charges
12 September 2005
BRUSSELS — Belgian Catholic priest Guy Theunis has appeared before a Rwandan village court accused of inciting genocide in 1994.
He is accused of reprinting articles from the extremist Hutu magazine ‘Kangura’ in the Rwandan magazine ‘Dialogue’. Theunis was the magazine’s editor between 1989-92.
However, Theunis, 60, has denied reproducing the articles, claiming that many pieces were just press reviews.
Theunis — who was arrested on 6 September in Kigali in the Democratic Republic of Congo — also said he is “astonished” by the allegations.
He is the first foreigner to appear before one of the ‘gacaca’ courts investigating the genocide in which 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus died.
He was referred to a conventional court on Sunday and can be sentenced to death.
Surprised by Father Theunis’ arrest, Belgian Foreign Minister Karel de Gucht has demanded an explanation from Rwanda.
Human Rights Watch activist Alison des Forges appeared as a defence witness for Theunis on Sunday. Some 20 witnesses were called for the prosecution.
Des Forges praised Theunis for his human rights work and NGOs in Belgium have also come to the missionary’s defence.
“I am astonished to hear all these allegations levelled against me. I sometimes wrote articles to press for human rights,” Theunis said.
“I never republished articles from Kangura, but just translated as part of a press review.”
Theunis worked as a missionary in Rwanda, a former Belgian colony, from 1970 until 1994.
Some members of the Catholic hierarchy in Rwanda had close ties to extremist politicians and aided Hutu militias prior to the 1994 killings.
[Copyright Expatica News 2005]
Subject: Belgian news