Travel ban delays release of Rwandan rebel by ICC

AP News
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Posted: Dec 20, 2011 11:02 AM
Travel ban delays release of Rwandan rebel by ICC

The release of a Rwandan rebel from International Criminal Court detention was delayed Tuesday because he is the subject of a United Nations travel ban, officials said in court papers.

Pre-trial judges ordered Callixte Mbarushimana released last Friday after dismissing charges against him _ including murder, rape and persecution _ for lack of evidence. Mbarushimana would be the first suspect released by the ICC since its inception in 2002.

He was arrested at his home in France last year and charged with involvement in a Rwandan militia's deadly campaign of attacks on villages in eastern Congo in 2009 by acting as the group's spokesman from his Paris apartment.

An appeal by prosecutors against Mbarushimana's release was rejected Tuesday.

Court spokesman Fadi El Abdallah said that prosecutors' last remaining course of action if they want to block the release is to go back to the pre-trial panel and seek to lodge a final appeal.

Court officials had booked a Tuesday flight to Paris for Mbarushimana, but he remained in custody after French authorities informed the court Mbarushimana is still subject of a U.N. travel ban and he cannot fly there without U.N. Sanctions Committee permission.

France asked for a 48-hour delay in Mbarushimana's transfer on Monday to give them time to approach the Sanctions Committee. The French Foreign Ministry had no comment on Mbarushimana's case Tuesday.

Prosecutors accused Mbarushimana of being a senior member of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, known by its French acronym FDLR, which is made up of former guerrillas accused of genocide in Rwanda's 1994 ethnic slaughter.

The group's killing spree in Congo in 2009 that left hundreds dead was aimed at forcing Rwanda to accept their return. Prosecutors allege that Mbarushimana's role was coordinating "an international campaign of propaganda and extortion" aimed at furthering the FDLR cause. He has always maintained his innocence.