Jail term sought for Rwanda driver accused of role in 1994 genocide

Prosecutors called Muhayimana an 'opportunist' who served the perpetrators of genocide (AFP/Thomas COEX)

French prosecutors on Wednesday asked for a 15-year jail term for a former hotel driver accused of complicity in Rwanda’s 1994 genocide.

French-Rwandan Claude Muhayimana is on trial for complicity in genocide and in crimes against humanity for his alleged role in transporting Hutu militiamen who massacred hundreds of Tutsis in the western Kibuye region.

The court is expected to announce its decision in the case later on Thursday.

Muhayimana, who investigators say also hid Tutsis at risk of death and helped some escape, fled after the genocide and gained French nationality in 2010.

The now 60-year-old “contributed to the genocide by driving and transporting the killers over a very long period of three months”, the prosecutor told the court, calling Muhayimana “an essential part of the operation to hunt down every last Tutsi”.

The prosecutor described Muhayimana as “an opportunist” who he said “adapted to the genocide by serving the perpetrators of the genocide”.

Muhayimana, who was married to a Tutsi woman at the time, has denied the charges.

Investigators also discovered that he had hidden Tutsis at risk of death and helped some flee.

Muhayimana’s defence counsel Francoise Mathe slammed what she termed the “political character” of the trial, suggesting it was in the Rwandan government’s interest to see a conviction.

“Justice relative to genocide is a major political issue for those who govern Rwanda today,” she said, in allusion to the administration of President Paul Kagame, who led the Tutsi rebellion and took power after the 1994 genocide.

Mathe told the jury: “I have not heard the truth, and I think you will have great difficulty in finding it, on what happened in Kibuye between April and July 1994 regarding the role of Claude Muhayimana and his responsibility.”

She added some testimony appeared to place Muhayimana “in several different places on the same day at the same time”.

Some 800,000 people died between April and July 1994 as the extremist Hutu regime tried to wipe out Rwanda’s Tutsi minority, causing one of the 20th century’s biggest massacres.

Muhayimana’s trial is the third in France linked to the genocide. In the previous ones, an army captain was sentenced to 25 years and two mayors to life imprisonment.