Rwandans Protest Probe of Leader

Friday, November 24, 2006

KIGALI, Rwanda, Nov. 23 -- Thousands of Rwandans demonstrated Thursday against a French judge's call for President Paul Kagame to face a U.N. court over allegations that he orchestrated a 1994 plane crash that killed the country's leader and unleashed a genocide.

A day after the judge issued arrest warrants for nine Kagame associates accused of involvement in the attack, as many as 25,000 demonstrators, including genocide survivors, gathered in Kigali's Amahoro Stadium chanting anti-French songs and burning French flags.

The protesters also held placards that read: "French government stop your petty politics and genocide ideology." Some Rwandans have accused France, Rwanda's former ally, of complicity in the Central African country's 1994 genocide.

President Juvenal Habyarimana's plane, which had a French crew, was hit by what was believed to be a missile as he flew to Kigali, the capital, after a summit in April 1994. His killing triggered the massacre of hundreds of thousands of minority Tutsis and politically moderate Hutus in 100 days of bloodletting.

A French anti-terrorism magistrate, Jean-Louis Bruguiere, has filed a document at the Paris prosecutor's office, citing evidence that accuses Kagame and members of his military staff of devising the plan to destroy Habyarimana's plane.

Under French law, the warrants mean the suspects have been placed under official investigation and now face questioning by the French judge. A warrant, however, cannot be issued for Kagame, who enjoys diplomatic immunity as a serving head of state. But a judicial source said Bruguiere had written to U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan asking for Kagame to be brought before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.

The Rwandan president has denounced the move as "bullying and arrogant." Kagame has denied involvement in the attack and said French judges have no authority over judges in Rwanda.

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