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Rwandan ex-leader’s widow asks France to close case against her

The widow of former Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana has appealed against a French judge’s decision to keep investigating claims she was involved in the country’s 1994 genocide, her lawyer said on Monday.

Habyarimana is wanted in Rwanda for genocide and crimes against humanity
Habyarimana is wanted in Rwanda for genocide and crimes against humanity

Agathe Habyarimana is wanted in Rwanda on genocide charges but in France she has the status of “assisted witness” — someone suspected of a crime but not officially charged.

In September, she asked for a Paris investigating magistrate to close the 13-year investigation into her alleged role in the killings, arguing that there had been an unreasonable delay in the proceedings.

On November 4, her request was refused on the recommendation of French prosecutors investigating her alleged crimes in Rwanda.

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Her lawyer, Philippe Meilhac, said they were appealing against that decision.

“All these years of work by the French courts have produced nothing,” he said. Given the seriousness of the crimes alleged, the investigation cannot be allowed to go on forever.

The accusations laid against her meant she was unable to get settled status in France, he added.

Habyarimana, 78, has been living since 1998 in France, which has refused to extradite her to Rwanda but has also denied her asylum on the basis of suspicions against her.

She fled to Europe three days after her husband’s assassination, and is suspected of having been a part of the Hutu inner circle of power that planned and orchestrated the genocide.

She denies the claim.

Following decades of tension between Rwanda’s Hutu ethnic majority and the minority Tutsi, a killing spree erupted in April 1994 after the plane carrying her husband, a Hutu, was shot down.

Over the next 100 days, some 800,000 people — mainly Tutsis but also moderate Hutus — were killed.

In France, Habyarimana is the subject of an investigation and has been questioned twice: in 2010 as a witness, and in 2016 as an “assisted witness”. AFP