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UN Tribunal Acquits 2 Rwandan Genocide Suspects - 2004-02-25

A U.N. tribunal has acquitted two suspects in Rwanda's 1994 genocide and sentenced a third to 27 years in prison. The prosecution plans to appeal the acquittal.

The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda ruled there was insufficient evidence to convict Rwanda's former minister of transport, Andre Ntagerura, and the former head of Cyangugu province, Emmanuel Bagambiki, of genocide.

Prosecution said it would appeal Judge George Williams' acquittal.

Roland Amoussouga is a spokesman for the tribunal.

"Right after the reading of the verdict, the prosecutor requested that the court suspend its decision of ordering immediate release of the two acquitted persons because they wish to file [an] immediate appeal against the acquittal," he said. The defense replied by saying that, no, you should not reverse your decision."

Mr. Amoussouga says the court will keep the two in jail until Thursday, when it will decide whether to release them pending appeal.

The defense lawyers said they can guarantee that the former minister of transport and the former head of Cyangugu province will appear for the appeal, and should be set free.

Mr. Amoussouga says an appeal could take months.

In a separate ruling, the court found the former army commander, Lieutenant Samuel Imanishimwe, guilty of organizing and carrying out massacres of Tutsis a decade ago.

For his role in the genocide, Imanishimwe was sentenced to 27 years in prison.

In 1994, Hutu extremists killed 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus. The U.N. tribunal, based in Arusha, Tanzania, has been trying cases against ministers, army officials, religious leaders and other high-profile members of Rwandan society for their roles in the genocide.