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Indicted Rwanda Diplomat Returns to France to Face Charges

The Rwandan diplomat accused of being complicit in the death of assassinated President Juvenal Habyarimana is expected to arrive France today (Friday) to appear in court. Rose Kabuye, a close ally of President Paul Kagame, was arrested in November in Germany after a French judge issued an international arrest warrant for her alleged role in the death of Rwanda's former president. Kabuye was later freed on bail by a French judge and allowed to return to Rwanda for Christmas. She is charged with invovement in the shooting down of the plane carrying Mr. Habyarimana's plane in April 1994. The death of the former president is widely believed to have triggered Rwanda's genocide, which led to the killing of 800-thousand people in 100 days. Rwanda's justice minister Tharcisse Karugarama tells reporter Peter Clottey that Kigali is confident of Kabuye's innocence.

"Indeed, Rose Kabuye is returning to France today. But that is not in accordance with the agreement that we had with France. Rather, it is in accordance with the terms of the bail that was granted to her. It is the terms of the court decision that was made authorizing her to make a trip to Kigali and be back to France on the 10^th . And secondly, I wanted to say that those terms that were set are exactly in line with due process, and so far, her rights have been respected," Karugarama pointed out.

He said there was no need for the French judge to have issued an international arrest warrant against Rose Kabuye and some of her colleagues who are also being accused of complicity in the former president's assassination.

"We have always argued and still argue that there was no reason in the first place at all to issue any indictment because she would have voluntarily and freely moved to France if anybody has questions for her. In the first place, there was no need at all for a warrant or arrest or an indictment and for this so-called international arrest warrant. They should not have issued it in the first place because you can only issue a warrant of arrest for somebody who has refused to cooperate with the judicial authority," he said.

Karugarama said he is hopeful the Rwandan diplomat would get a fair trial.

"Honestly, I would wish to believe that the judiciary would do its job. I also wish to believe that she would definitely win the case because there is no case against her. I want to believe that those political manipulations would be shown with what they were worth. And that the judges would see through it and that they will call a bluff a bluff, and that she would come home clean, innocent as she has always been. And that is the case of all the other people that have been indicted," Karugarama noted.

He said there seems to be no empirical proof of Kabuye's alleged guilt in the assassination of the former president.

"There is nothing and no shred of evidence whatsoever. So we believe she would be clean, home and dry," he said.

Karugarama described the charges leveled against Rose Kabuye as a classic case of political manipulation.

"I read the report of judge (Jean-Louis) Bruguiere. When you read it, it is empty of substance. As a trained lawyer, if I read something that is having no substance, if I read gossip, if I read the spirit of judge Bruguiere, I call it for what it is worth, an empty accusation. So it can only political manipulation on the part of the judge and those who were behind his decision," Karugarama pointed out.

He said the diplomatic relationship between Kigali and Paris is improving.

"I would say that today the relationship is better than yesterday, and that it would be good for international diplomacy and politics to foster such relations. I think that there is nobody that benefits from conflicts, except bad guys. We would wish to believe that we are the good guys and that there are good guys in France, and that the good guys in the two countries would work hard for the harmonization of relations. There is nobody that really benefits from strained relations, and so we would hope that time and history would put things straight," he said.

Meanwhile, French Judge Bruguiere, who issued Rose Kabuye's arrest warrant, was probing the April 6, 1994, shoot-down over Kigali of a plane carrying Rwandan President Habyarimana, along with Burundi's former leader Cyprien Ntaryamira, both ethnic Hutus, and a French crew. The judge also said President Paula Kagame, a Tutsi and then a rebel leader, should be tried for possibly ordering the downing of the plane. Kagame has always denied any involvement in the attack on the plane.

As a head of state, Kagame enjoys immunity. But on Wednesday, the judge signed international arrest warrants for nine of the president's close associates, accusing them of murder and conspiracy in the incident. Kagame reacted furiously, calling the claims "rubbish," accusing France of "bullyish" behavior, and repeating allegations that France was complicit in the genocide by backing the radical Hutus blamed for most of the killings.

Rwanda severed diplomatic ties with Paris in 2006 after a French anti-terrorism judge issued arrest warrants for Kabuye and other Rwandan government officials alleged to have been complicit in the shooting down of the plane and its prelude to the one-hundred-day massacre. Kigali also accused France of showing gross disrespect and disdain to African countries over the international arrest warrants.

Following the arrest of Kabuye, Kigali sharply condemned both Germany and France, saying she was on official government business when detained and therefore should have enjoyed diplomatic immunity. Rwanda in retaliation expelled Germany's ambassador and recalled its envoy from Berlin.