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Rwandan opposition leader jailed

S. Maupas/RFI

A Rwandan court on Friday sentenced an opposition leader to life in prison for recruiting rebels to fight President Paul Kagame's government. Meanwhile, French investigators concluded a visit to Rwanda as part of an enquiry into a 1994 plane crash that killed then Rwandan president Juvenal Habyarimana.


Deo Mushayidi, a former ruling party member, was also convicted of obtaining a passport through fraud and spreading rumours to incite civil disobedience, for which he received shorter terms.

Mushayidi, who was leader of the Pact for the Defence of the People, was arrested in Burundi in March and handed over to Rwandan authorities.

He denied the charges, admitting only that he has been travelling on a Burundian passport since 2006. His lawyer says he will appeal the ruling.

Meanwhile, French experts investigating a 1994 plane crash that killed Rwanda’s then president Juvenal Habyarimana finished hearing witness testimonies and visiting Kigali sites on Friday. The crash is believed to have triggered the 1994 genocide, in which 800,000 people died.

The five-member team of anti-terrorism judges, surveyors, ballistics, explosives and fire experts is trying to determine the origin of missiles that hit the plane.

The French team, which arrived in Kigali on Saturday, suspects a commando unit of Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) rebels of infiltrating the Rwandan Hutu army and firing two missiles from Masaka hill east of the runway where the plane was coming in to

But the RPF, which is now in power, blames Hutu extremists.

According to a Rwandan report, backed up by a British ballistic survey, the missiles were fired from the Kanombe military camp, a big army base adjoining the airport and the presidential residence.

Rwandan Justice Minister Tharcisse Karugarama handed text documents, pictures and audio recordings to the French team on Friday and said they had been given a free hand during the probe.

The French team is expected to present its report to the two judges before March 2011.

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