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Last Updated: Monday, 9 January 2006, 09:53 GMT
Rwandan guilty of tourist murders
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
The killings devastated Uganda's tourist industry
A former Rwandan soldier has been convicted of the murder of eight western "gorilla tourists" and a game warden in a Ugandan park in 1999.

Jean Paul Bizimana, 31, was among Rwandan rebels who abducted 14 tourists and their guide as they tracked rare mountain gorillas, the judge said.

Nine of them were brutally killed with clubs and machetes. The tourists were from the US, the UK and New Zealand.

Bizimana is to be sentenced on Friday by the Kampala court.

His lawyer said he would appeal.

English-speakers were allegedly targeted because of US and UK support for Rwanda's government.

A French diplomat was set free by the kidnappers, with a message condemning US and UK support for Rwanda's Tutsi President Paul Kagame.

Gorillas in the Mist

Mr Bizimana, alias Van Damme, was a member of the Liberation Army of Rwanda (Alir), formed by militias responsible for the 1994 genocide of some 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus in Rwanda.

After the genocide, Hutu militias fled into neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo, from where they allegedly crossed into Uganda to stage the attacks in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.

The park is a sanctuary for the endangered mountain gorillas.

The attacks devastated Uganda's tourist industry. Mr Bizimana could face the death penalty. He was arrested in July 2004.

Gang

In his ruling, High Court Judge John Bosco Katutsi said that the gang which carried out the attack shared a common purpose and therefore each individual member of the gang was guilty of murder.

"This man was a member of that gang, and he is convicted accordingly."

The defence lawyer criticised the ruling and said he would appeal against the verdict.

"Simply being part of the gang does not mean he carried out the killings," Norris Maranga told AP news agency.

AP reports that the judge went against the opinions of his assessors in reaching the guilty verdict.

Three other Rwandans have been charged in the US in connection with the deaths of the two US citizens.




SEE ALSO:
Rwanda tourist death arrests
04 Mar 03 |  Africa
Images of the kidnap drama
04 Mar 99 |  Africa
Survivor relives Ugandan terror
04 Mar 99 |  Africa


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