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Last Updated: Tuesday, 27 September 2005, 13:23 GMT 14:23 UK
Belgium seeks Rwanda priest case
Guy Theunis at the 'gacaca' court in Rwanda
Father Theunis appeared in a gacaca court earlier this month
Belgium has asked Rwanda to allow the case of a Belgian Catholic priest, on charges relating to the 1994 genocide, be dealt with by Belgian justice.

Belgian Foreign Minister Karel De Gucht also asked his Rwandan counterpart to return priest Guy Theunis to Belgium.

Father Theunis, 60, denies reproducing articles inciting killings, in a Rwandan magazine he once edited.

He was referred by a Rwandan village court for trial at a conventional court that could hand down the death penalty.

Human rights groups have expressed concern at the trial, saying there is not enough evidence to support the charges against the priest.

I am astonished to hear all these allegations levelled against me. I sometimes wrote articles to press for human rights
Father Theunis

Under the proposal, a Belgian judge would investigate the charges against Father Theunis and decide whether or not to prosecute.

"At first glance, we can't find any damning facts in the case and we had a proper look," Mr de Gucht was quoted as telling Belgian radio.

Rwanda's Foreign Minister Charles Murigande said he would consider the request.

"We will need some guarantees on how the process is carried out," he said.

Airport arrest

Earlier this month, Father Theunis became the first foreigner to go before one of the "gacaca" courts set up to help investigate the genocide in which 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus died.

He was accused of inciting Rwandans to commit genocide by republishing articles from an extremist publication, Kangura, in his Dialogue magazine.

He told the court in the Rugenge area: "I am astonished to hear all these allegations levelled against me. I sometimes wrote articles to press for human rights.

"I never republished articles from Kangura, but just translated as part of a press review."

Father Theunis was detained at the airport in Rwanda's capital, Kigali, on 6 September while on his way home to South Africa from the Democratic Republic of Congo.

He worked as a missionary in Rwanda, a former Belgian colony, from 1970 until 1994.


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