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Bitter opposition to extradition of Genocide suspect

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A tall, powerfully built man who is a devout Catholic, Kabayiza is said to have struggled to control his emotions when he talked about the accusations against him. (Courtesy photo)

Kigali: The family, American friends and a New York attorney for a Rwandan refugee living in Amherst, New York, say allegations the accused Genocide fugitive was complicit the 1994 Genocide are untrue. His two "Tutsi nephews" say he saved them, RNA reports.

New York attorney Mark Mahoney says Benoit Kabayiza, 39, is a hard-working family man who rose from not knowing a word of English to become a successful accountant, The Buffalo News reported Monday.

The government of Rwanda and Interpol warrant identifies him as Ntawukuriryayo, and he is actually the son of Mr. Dominique Ntawukulilyayo is currently on trial in Tanzania, before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. A former subprefect in the Rwandan government, Ntawukulilyayo is accused of coordinating the murders of thousands of Tutsis, a charge he denies.

"We have every reason to believe that the charges against Benoit are false and politically motivated," said Mahoney of his client, a Hutu who Interpol says trained, encouraged and provided guns to mobs who killed and raped Tutsis. "Benoit is married to a Tutsi woman. He didn't kill Tutsis. During the genocide, he protected Tutsis from being murdered."

Mahoney said human rights researcher Alison Des Forges, who died this year in the crash of Continental Connections Flight 3407 near Buffalo, was working on collecting evidence to prove the charges against Kabayiza are bogus.

"She was convinced that Rwanda's system of prosecution was very suspect and that Benoit is innocent," Mahoney told the News.

And no one has stronger feelings about Kabayiza's innocence than his Tutsi wife, Thamar, and the couple's two nephews, Eric Dushime and Victor Habinshuti. They are Tutsis who swear that Kabayiza -- a member of the rival Hutu tribe -- saved their lives during the genocide.

"My uncle is my hero," Habinshuti said. "He married my auntie cq, a Tutsi woman. He risked his own life to save us. The [Rwandan] government is trying to say he was a killer of Tutsis .‚.‚. . It's not true, and it makes me sick."

For two years now, Rwanda's government has wanted to tear Kabayiza, 39, away from his comfortable and happy life in Amherst and take him back to his homeland to face genocide charges. So far, the United States government has refused to allow his extradition, it was reported.

But a special unit of U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement that investigates war crime and genocide allegations made by other governments against people now in the United States, along with federal prosecutors from Buffalo, has been probing the allegations against Kabayiza.

Mr. Roger Des Forges said his late wife -- widely considered one of the world's leading experts on the Genocide -- was providing information to Customs agents and Hochul. He said his wife believed the charges against Kabayiza were false.

Alison Des Forges was a senior adviser to Human Rights Watch, which has been critical of the genocide prosecutions conducted by Rwanda. A Rwanda prosecutor is also under fire, along with American broadcaster NBC News for haunting Kabayiza sometime recently with cameras.

"Alison had profound doubts about the evidence," said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch.

Rwanda's government also alleges that Kabayiza's father -- a powerful government official in Rwanda at the time of the genocide -- orchestrated the murders of more than 25,000 Tutsis.

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