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Last Updated: Friday, 1 August, 2003, 17:34 GMT 18:34 UK
Mass genocide verdict delivered
Genocide skulls in Rwanda
800,000 people were killed in the genocide
The biggest mass trial of genocide suspects so far in Rwanda has delivered its verdicts.

A total of 105 people were convicted by the court in Gikongo in southern Rwanda.

Eleven people were handed a death sentence, 73 were sentenced to life in prison and 37 were acquitted.

Some 100,000 genocide suspects are currently in jails in the central African state awaiting trial, and the authorities have resorted to mass trials and traditional community courts in an attempt to deal with the backlog.

The defendants all wore pink prisoner uniforms.

Rwanda's state prosecution service says 6,500 people have so far been convicted of genocide crimes.

More than 600 have received death sentences, and according to public prosecutor Gerald Gahima, 23 death sentences have been carried out.

More than 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed by armed militias in 100 days of violence in 1994.

A United Nations war crimes tribunal for Rwanda, based in neighbouring Tanzania and set up in 1995 is dealing with the cases of major figures accused of being behind the genocide.

But the court has worked very slowly and so far only 12 people have been convicted of genocide-related crimes, and one person has been acquitted

The chief prosecutor is expected to be replaced soon.

Elections

Meanwhile, Rwanda has formally opened its campaign for the first presidential elections since the genocide.

The election will take place on 25 August and parliamentary polls will follow on 3 September.

The main opposition presidential candidate, former Prime Minister Faustin Twagiramungu - complained on Thursday that President Paul Kagame and his RPF party had booked every public arena to prevent opposition groups from making their voice heard, but this was denied by the head of the election commission, Chrysologue Karangwa.

He also promised that all four candidates would have equal access to the national media for the election.

The poll is being held under the terms set by a national referendum earlier this year, designed to prevent future outbreaks of ethnic violence




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's James Ingham
"It was one of the most shocking and appalling genocides of recent times"



SEE ALSO:
Genocide prosecutor 'to go'
29 Jul 03  |  Africa
Pastor aided Rwanda genocide
19 Feb 03  |  Africa
Rwanda sets up genocide courts
25 Nov 02  |  Africa


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