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Last Updated: Tuesday, 21 November 2006, 16:47 GMT
Rwanda fury at Kagame trial call
Rwandan President Paul Kagame
Mr Kagame has always accused France over the genocide
Rwanda has angrily rejected calls by a French judge for President Paul Kagame to stand trial over the killing of his predecessor, which sparked genocide.

Rwanda's foreign minister said France was trying to cover up its own complicity in the 1994 killings of some 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus.

Lawyers defending those accused of genocide at a UN court have backed the idea of putting Mr Kagame on trial.

After Juvenal Habyarimana's plane was shot down, the killings began.

"The French are trying to appease their conscience for their role in the genocide and are now trying to find someone else to hold responsible for their acts here," Foreign Affairs Minister Charles Murigande told Reuters news agency.

These are political games rather than a judicial process
Tharcisse Karugarama

"They have panicked because they know their acts during the genocide were going to be exposed to the rest of the world in the on-going probe commission here," he said.

A hearing began in the Rwandan capital, Kigali, last month into allegations of French involvement in the killings.

French legal authorities are investigating Habyarimana's death because his aircraft had a French crew.


Judge Jean-Louis Bruguiere is expected to sign international arrest warrants for nine of Mr Kagame's close aides in the coming days.

Under French law, a warrant cannot be issued for Mr Kagame because he has immunity as a head of state.

Skulls from the Rwandan genocide
Some 800,000 people were killed in the genocide
But the judge said Mr Kagame should stand trial at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), set up to try those responsible for the genocide.

The ICTR defence lawyers said they had asked the court's prosecutor-general to prepare charges against Mr Kagame and arrest him.

The lawyers said Mr Kagame would not enjoy immunity if charged by the tribunal.

The BBC's Fergal Keane says if the judge's claims prove true, the legal and moral implications would be devastating.

Justice Minister Tharcisse Karugarama described the French judge's call as "political games rather than a judicial process".

Claim and counter-claim

Rwanda's two most senior generals - armed forces chief James Kabarebe and army chief-of-staff Charles Kayonga - are among the nine aides suspected of involvement in the downing of the plane carrying Habyarimana and his Burundi counterpart Cyprien Ntaryamira on 6 April 1994.

Hutu militias accused Mr Kagame's then rebel Tutsi-dominated Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) of killing the president, and started massacring Tutsis across the country.

Mr Kagame has always accused Hutu extremists of killing Habyarimana, a moderate Hutu, in order to provide a pretext for the genocide.

The killings ended 100 days later when the RPF took power.

The RPF says France helped train some of the soldiers who carried out the genocide.

The ICTR has convicted 26 people and acquitted five. All of those charged in the ICTR have had links to the Hutu militias, known as the Interahamwe.

The Tanzania-based court is due to be disbanded in 2008.


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