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Last Updated:  Wednesday, 19 February, 2003, 11:40 GMT
Pastor aided Rwanda genocide
Elizaphan Ntakirutimana
The 78-year-old looked frail in court

A pastor in the Seventh Day Adventist Church has been found guilty of genocide by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.

Seventy-eight-year-old Elizaphan Ntakirutimana is the first church leader to be found guilty of genocide by the tribunal and was sentenced to 10 years in jail.

The judges said they took into account his previous good character and also his current frail health.

The tribunal based in Arusha, Tanzania, heard that the pastor had personally driven Hutu attackers to places where Tutsis had taken refuge.

His son, Doctor Gerard Ntakirutimana, was sentenced to 25 years' imprisonment for murdering Tutsi civilians.

Up to a million people are said to have been killed in a series of massacres by Hutu extremist militias against Rwanda's Tutsi minority in 1994.

The pastor and his son, who pleaded not guilty to all charges, are the ninth and tenth people to be convicted by the court since its creation in November 1994.

Incidents

Prosecutors said that Pastor Ntakirutimana and his son actively participated in the mass slaughter in western Rwanda.

In one notorious incident, Tutsis who had taken shelter in a church and hospital complex sent a letter to the pastor.

It begged him as a man of God to help.

We wish to inform you that tomorrow we will be killed with our families
Letter from a Tutsi
We wish to inform you, the letter said, that tomorrow, we will be killed with our families.

Mr Ntakirutimana's response was that the unarmed men, women and children should prepare for death.

Soon after, Hutu militias attacked - accompanied by the pastor and his son.

Of the hundreds who had sought shelter, only a few survived.

The pastor himself fled to the United States after the genocide.

Legal battle

After an extended legal battle, he was eventually extradited to Arusha.

He and his son deny all the charges.

They say they had already left the area before the killing started.

The pastor's defence at the tribunal was conducted by a former US attorney general, Ramsey Clark.





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WATCH AND LISTEN
BBC's Ishbel Matheson on Focus on Africa
"The Pastor turned his back on pleas for assistance"



SEE ALSO:
Rwanda sets up genocide courts
25 Nov 02 |  Africa
Rwanda tests genocide courts
19 Jun 02 |  Africa


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