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'Matchet man' in Rwandan genocide wants French trial


One of the most wanted fugitives in Rwanda’s 1994 genocide, Felicien Kabuga, appeared before a French court Wednesday (May 20), days after his arrest but a decision on his fate was delayed until next week.

Kabuga, 84, was arrested outside Paris on Saturday after 25 years on the run. He was brought into a Paris courtroom in a wheelchair, wearing a face mask. He had been living north of the city under an assumed name, shielded by his children.

Kabuga, who had a $5 million bounty on his head, is accused of equipping militias in the genocide that killed more than 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus who tried to protect them.

Rwandan prosecutors have said financial documents found in the capital, Kigali, after the slaughter indicated that Kabuga, then a wealthy businessman, used dozens of his companies to import vast quantities of machetes used in the killings.

The Paris court quickly decided to delay until next week the hearing on whether to hand him to the U.N.’s International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals based at The Hague in the Netherlands.

The U.N.’s International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda indicted Kabuga in 1997 on charges related to conspiracy to commit genocide, persecution and extermination.

Defense lawyer Laurent Bayon said Kabuga wished to be tried in France, citing health reasons. He did not give details. “We have eight more days to prepare his defense,” Bayon said.

“It is unacceptable to do such a fast procedure when justice has waited for 25 years. Justice can wait another 10 days before wanting to send it I don’t know where,” the lawyer added.

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