March 31, 2012 / 8:38 AM / 7 years ago

US woman to be retried in Rwandan genocide case

LITTLETON, New Hampshire (Reuters) - A New Hampshire woman accused of lying about her role in the 1994 Rwandan genocide to win asylum in the United States will face a second trial on immigration fraud charges following a mistrial.

The skulls and bones of Rwandan victims rest on shelves at a genocide memorial inside the church at Ntarama just outside the capital Kigali, August 6, 2010. REUTERS/Finbarr O'Reilly

Federal prosecutors on Friday notified a court in Concord, New Hampshire, that they would not drop charges against Beatrice Munyenyezi, 41, whom they accuse of helping to organize mass killings and rapes in the southern Rwandan town of Butare 18 years ago.

A jury deadlocked in the case this month. The new trial is set to begin in September.

Munyenyezi’s husband and mother-in-law were arrested more than a decade ago and put on trial by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in Tanzania, where they were sentenced to life in prison on genocide charges.

But the United States granted Munyenyezi asylum in 1998 after she swore that she had never been involved in genocide. Prosecutors charge that those statements amount to immigration fraud.

Munyenyezi, who moved to Manchester, New Hampshire, where she worked for the city’s housing authority and later as a nurse’s aide, is in prison and awaiting a bail hearing next week.

If convicted, she could face up to 10 years in prison and the possible loss of her U.S. citizenship, which would likely result in her being deported to Rwanda.

Radical ethnic Hutu militias and soldiers killed an estimated 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus over 100 days in the central African nation after the killing of President Juvenal Habyarimana, whose plane was shot down on April 6, 1994.

The genocide was halted when Tutsi rebels led by current President Paul Kagame took over the country from neighboring Uganda in July of that year.


During the initial trial, prosecution witnesses said Munyenyezi helped oversee a roadblock in front of a hotel owned by her mother-in-law, a minister in the interim Hutu government. Cars were stopped and Tutsis were separated from Hutus to be killed.

Witnesses also accused her of selecting Tutsi women to be raped and one witness described her shooting a nun with a pistol while he and other militiamen cheered.

“We continue to believe that the facts in this case warranted prosecution and we intend to retry the case against Ms. Munyenyezi,” said Christina Dilorio-Sterling, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s office in Boston, which is prosecuting the case.

Family members said Munyenyezi was five months pregnant with twins at the time of the genocide and spent the time protecting herself from the violence.

Munyenyezi’s lawyers said the case against her was nothing more than guilt by association. They said accusations of genocide are often made against political foes of the Kagame government as well as anyone who testifies for the defense in a genocide case, as Munyenyezi did for her husband.

Defense lawyers estimate the U.S. government has spent more than $1 million on Munyenyezi’s case.

“We’re beginning the logistical nightmare of bringing our defense witnesses over again from half way around the world and the government will go through this as well I think,” said her court-appointed defense lawyer Mark Howard.

The Justice Department brought similar immigration fraud charges against an 84-year-old Kansas man last year, accusing Lazare Kobagaya of helping direct the killings in one area of Rwanda. Charges against him were eventually dismissed.

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