Expatica news

Belgian priest ‘not guilty’ of Rwanda genocide

14 September 2005

BRUSSELS – The Catholic press agency Misna has printed evidence which it says shows Belgian priest Guy Theunis is not guilty of playing a role in the Rwanda massacre in 1994.

Theunis is being tried before a Rwandan village court on charges of inciting genocide. 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 could be sentenced to death if found guilty.

The prosecution says he reprinted articles from the extremist Hutu magazine ‘Kangura’ in the Rwandan magazine ‘Dialogue’ when he was the magazine’s editor between 1989-92.

However, Theunis, 60, has denied reproducing the articles, claiming that many pieces were just press reviews.

On Wednesday, Le Soir newspaper reported that Misna had published a series of facts in defence of Theunis. The faxes show Theunis warned the Catholic hierarchy of the risks of genocide before the killings started and repeated his warnings when the massacres began.

Theunis — who was arrested on 6 September in Kigali in Rwanda — has been reported to be “astonished” by the allegations against him.

On Sunday, Human Rights Watch activist Alison des Forges appeared as a defence witness for Theunis. 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.

Surprised by Father Theunis’ arrest, Belgian Foreign Minister Karel de Gucht has demanded an explanation from Rwanda.

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