De Gucht intervenes in Rwanda genocide trial
27 September 2005
BRUSSELS – Belgian Foreign Minister Karel De Gucht has demanded that a Belgian priest faces charges in Rwanda of inciting genocide should be allowed to stand trial at home.
De Gucht made the formal request in a telephone call with his Rwandan counterpart Charles Murigande that Guy Theunis, a 60-year-old Catholic priest, be transferred to the Belgian courts.
When Theunis was arrested on 6 September he became 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.
The Belgian priest denies the charges that he was guilty of inciting genocide through republishing articles from the extremist publication Kangura in his Dialogue magazine.
Theunis said 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, a former Belgian colony, from 1970 until 1994.
Foreign Minister De Gucht had expressed astonishment at Theunis’ arrest and raised the issue with Murigande on the margins of the UN assembly in New York last week.
[Copyright Expatica 2005]
Subject: Belgian news