War crimes court releases Rwandan rebel leader

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Rwandan rebel leader Callixte Mbarushimana was released in France on Friday after the International Criminal Court last week dropped charges against him, the court announced.

"Thanks to the full cooperation of the Netherlands, the host state of the ICC, and of France, Mr Mbarushimana was released on French territory, as he requested," it said in a statement issued in The Hague.

Mbarushimana's lawyer earlier told AFP his client would be released later Friday and be flown to France from the Netherlands, where he has been in ICC custody for almost a year, facing crimes against humanity and warcrimes charges.

Lawyer Arthur Vercken said travel restrictions imposed on Mbarushimana by a UN sanctions committee, which prevented him from leaving the Netherlands, had been lifted.

Mbarushimana, 48, was facing 13 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity, before ICC judges on December 16 dropped charges against him on the grounds of insufficient evidence.

The crimes including murder, rape and persecution, were allegedly committed by his rebel Democratic Forces of the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo in 2009.

Mbarushimana has chosen to return to France, where he had been living since 2002 and working as a computer specialist, until his arrest on October 11, 2010 following an ICC arrest warrant.

He has political refugee status in France.

His arrest arose from a probe into alleged Congolese war crimes referred to the ICC by the Kinshasa government in June 2004.

But he is also under investigation in France for his alleged role in the 1994 Rwandan genocide of about 800,000 people, mostly ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus.

© 2011 AFP

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