BERLIN (AP) — Germany's top criminal court ruled Thursday that there was sufficient evidence to find a former Rwandan mayor guilty of participating in genocide and sent the case back for the lower court to reconsider his conviction last year on a lesser crime.
Onesphore Rwabukombe, a 58-year-old former Hutu mayor of a district in northern Rwanda, had been convicted last year in Frankfurt state court of being an accessory to genocide and was sentenced to 14 years in prison. If convicted of genocide, he could get a life sentence.
In its ruling, the lower court said Rwabukombe incited his followers to slaughter 400 members of the Tutsi minority in the town of Kiziguro on April 11, 1994.
Ruling on an appeal of the verdict, however, the Federal Criminal Court said the evidence presented in the three-year trial showed he was involved in planning the massacre, told followers to "begin your work," brought armed Hutus to the church grounds where the victims had taken refuge and urged the attackers to continue to kill.
Those details, the court said, constituted the "material elements" of participating in genocide. It sent the case back to the Frankfurt state court.
Rwabukombe, who sought asylum in Germany in 2002, was arrested in 2010 on an international warrant, but wasn't extradited after authorities concluded he couldn't receive a fair trial in Rwanda.
During his trial in Germany, some 15 witnesses from Rwanda were heard by the court.
The Federal Criminal Court said a full retrial was not necessary, but it was not immediately clear when the lower court would take up reconsidering the verdict and sentence.