Rwandan general refuses extradition to Spain from UK

AP News
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Posted: Jun 25, 2015 1:54 PM
Rwandan general refuses extradition to Spain from UK

LONDON (AP) — A Rwandan military general who heads the country's intelligence service refused to be extradited to Spain at a hearing Thursday in a London court, setting the stage for a prolonged legal fight.

Emmanuel Karenzi Karake is accused by Spain of war crimes. He was arrested at Heathrow Airport on Saturday by British police acting on a European warrant.

Judge Quentin Purdy said a full extradition hearing would be held starting on Oct. 29. The judge granted Karake conditional bail and said he would be released from police custody after meeting several court-ordered conditions, including posting bail of 1 million pounds ($1.57 million).

In Rwanda, President Paul Kagame told parliament the charges against Karake were a sign of "absolute contempt" and arrogance by Western countries. He said British officials had ignored Karake's diplomatic immunity. He condemned Britain, which is Rwanda's biggest development partner.

"You really help me, you support my development but at the same you despise me? You hold me in contempt? This level of disdain is just unacceptable," he said.

The 54-year-old general, wearing a green-and-yellow prison jumpsuit, drew cheers from some at Westminster Magistrates Court when he raised his clasped hands above his head upon arriving Thursday.

His legal team includes Cherie Booth, wife of former Prime Minister Tony Blair. She sat behind him in court.

Karake is a close ally of Rwandan President Paul Kagame. He was one of 40 members of the Rwandan military indicted in 2008 on charges of terrorism and genocide by Spanish national Court Judge Fernando Andreu.

His lawyer called him "a man of impeccable character" who is a senior member of a "respected and democratic government." Prosecutor Aaron Watkins, however, called Karake a flight risk and said the five charges against him could lead to a maximum 30 years in prison.

Rwandan officials have criticized the arrest as unjust and political. Andrew Mitchell, a former British international development secretary, agreed, calling the arrest an abuse of the European arrest warrant system.

In Rwanda, thousands of demonstrators marched to the British High Commission in the capital, Kigali, to protest against Karake's arrest. Some held signs that said "KK's arrest is total abuse of justice by European powers" and "Demeaning Africans is unacceptable."

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Associated Press writer Edmund Kagire in Kigali, Rwanda, contributed to this report.