Rwanda prosecutor says he'll charge US lawyer soon

AP News
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Posted: May 02, 2011 1:46 PM
Rwanda prosecutor says he'll charge US lawyer soon

Rwanda's top prosecutor said Monday that he is ready to file charges against an American law professor and force the U.S. citizen back to Rwanda to face proceedings for denying Rwanda's genocide.

Rwanda's Prosecutor General Martin Ngoga said he has been strengthening his case against Peter Erlinder since the U.S. lawyer and professor was released from a Rwandan prison last year on medical grounds.

Erlinder was jailed in Rwanda last year on allegations that he minimized the country's 1994 genocide.

"We have built a substantive case against Peter Erlinder and we will file this case very soon," Ngoga said. "When we summon him to Kigali to attend the criminal proceedings we expect him to heed the summons. If he doesn't do so we will ask Interpol to intervene. Mr. Erlinder's security is assured and a fair trial is guaranteed."

Erlinder, a professor at William Mitchell College of Law in St. Paul, Minn., has said he would return to Rwanda if charged. But he has also said he has "no doubt" he would be killed if he returns.

More than 500,000 Rwandans, mostly ethnic Tutsis but some moderate Hutus, were massacred by Hutus during the genocide. The massacres ended when mostly Tutsi rebels led by current Rwandan president Paul Kagame defeated the extremists.

Ngoga has said he would charge Erlinder with genocide denial, based on articles Erlinder wrote that were published on the Internet.

Erlinder told The Associated Press on Monday that he agrees that "many, many Tutsi Rwandans" were killed in a ways that meet the definition of the Genocide Convention.

"I have great sympathy for that loss," he said, but added that he believes there is no evidence that the mass violence was orchestrated by Rwanda's former, Hutu-led, government.

Erlinder has been a lead defense attorney for the U.N. International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, which is prosecuting Rwandans charged with participating in the mass killings. He was arrested May 28 after going to Rwanda to help an opposition leader who wanted to run for president. A judge released him June 17 on medical grounds.

Erlinder has said the official version of events is wrong and it's inaccurate to blame one side. He said killings by Hutus of Hutus who were protecting Tutsis would not be genocide under the U.N. definition, but may count as war crimes or crimes against humanity. He also said the tribunal ruled last year that there was insufficient evidence to support the view that the genocide was a conspiracy planned long in advance. He said other researchers have concluded that more Hutus than Tutsis may have been slain.

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Associated Press reporter Steve Karnowski in Minneapolis, Minnesota, contributed to this report.