Fulgence Kayishema, accused of playing a major role in the genocide in Rwanda and arrested last month near Cape Town after 22 years on the run, is to seek asylum in South Africa, his lawyer announced on Tuesday.
"My instructions are to apply for asylum in the republic of South Africa", Juan Smuts shared at the end of a court hearing in Cape Town.
His client "fears for his life if he is extradited," he explained.
The request for asylum is likely to delay Kayishema's trial in South Africa, where he faces numerous charges relating to his illegal stay in South Africa, and will "suspend his extradition", the lawyer added.
Until his arrest on 24 may, the 62-year-old Rwandan was one of the last four fugitives wanted for their role in the 1994 genocide of 800,000 Rwandans, many of them Tutsi, by Hutu extremists.
A stocky, balding man with round eyes behind thin glasses, the sixty-year-old had admitted to being the man wanted by international justice. A master at assuming false identities, according to investigators, he was most recently using the name Donatien Nibashumba.
It is still unclear how he came to be on the run, but according to the South African prosecutor's office, he started a family and, using an assumed name and claiming to be Burundian, applied first for asylum in 2000 and then for refugee status in 2004.