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Singer urged Rwandans to genocide

Simon Bikindi
Simon Bikindi founded a ballet company in Rwanda

One of Rwanda's most famous singers, Simon Bikindi, has been sentenced to 15 years in prison for inciting violence during the 1994 genocide.

His conviction stems from a speech he made from a vehicle equipped with a public address system encouraging ethnic Hutus to kill Tutsis.

Prosecutors at the UN-backed tribunal based in Tanzania had called for the singer to be given a life sentence.

Some 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were slaughtered in just 100 days.

In its judgement, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) said that several of Bikindi's songs, which were widely broadcast in Rwanda at the time, had incited hatred against Tutsis.

However, the judges said the songs were written before the genocide and there was no evidence to suggest Bikindi had performed or played them in 1994.

'Snakes'

Bikindi was convicted for a speech he made in June 1994 on the main road between Kivumu and Kayove, in north-western Rwanda.

"Simon Bikindi used a public address system to state that the majority population, the Hutu, should rise up to exterminate the minority, the Tutsi," the judgement read.

"On his way back, Bikindi used the same system to ask if people had been killing Tutsi, who he referred to as snakes."

The BBC's Jamhuri Mwavyombo at the ICTR says his lawyers are considering whether to appeal against the sentence.

Bikindi was also a sports ministry official and founded Rwanda's Irindiro Ballet.

He was arrested seven years ago in the Netherlands.

The most high-profile genocide cases are being tried by ICTR in Arusha.

Since 1997, the ICTR has convicted 29 people and acquitted five.

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