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Rwandan opposition figure jailed

2010-02-08 19:01

Kigali - A Rwandan opposition figure who returned from exile last month was arrested at the weekend to serve a 19-year prison term handed down by a local tribunal trying genocide suspects, police said on Monday.

Joseph Ntawangundi, an aide to the leader of the Unified Democratic Party (FDU), had been convicted in absentia for genocide by one of the grassroots courts known as gacaca in Rwanda's eastern Ngoma province.

"He was arrested on Saturday on an arrest warrant issued by a gacaca and dated 2007," police spokesperson Eric Kayiranga said. "He was sentenced to 19 years prison in absentia in 2007."

Ntawangundi and FDU leader Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza returned home in mid-January to register their party ahead of presidential elections set for August in which Ingabire plans to run.

The FDU protested that Ntawangundi was not in the country during the 1994 genocide that left some 800 000 dead.

"During the genocide Mr Joseph Ntawangundi was doing two months of training in Sweden for the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions. Shortly after that he returned to Kenya," Ingabire said in a statement on her party's website.

"There is no way he could have been in the place where he is supposed to have committed this alleged crime," added Ingabire, a critic of the gacaca courts.