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Archive for Sunday, May 15, 2011

Prosecutors to wrap up case in genocide trial

May 15, 2011

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— Prosecutors are expected to rest their case Monday against the Kansas man accused of participating in the 1993 Rwandan genocide and lying to U.S. immigration authorities about it.

The government has sought during two weeks of testimony to portray Lazare Kobagaya as a leader who incited atrocities during the ethnic violence that spread to a rural Rwandan village known as Birambo, where he and his family lived at the time. The 84-year-old Topeka man contends he is innocent.

An estimated 500,000 to 800,000 people were killed in Rwanda between April and July 1994. Most of the dead belonged to an ethnic group known as the Tutsi, while most of the killings were carried out by members of an ethnic group known as the Hutu.

Federal prosecutors have said the trial is the first in the United States requiring proof of genocide. Jurors must decide whether Kobagaya, a Hutu born in Burundi, lied in order to come to the United States and lied in order to become a U.S. citizen.

An immigration official is expected to take the stand Monday as the government’s last witness. The defense could begin laying out their case later in the day.

Kobagaya was charged two years ago in a two-count indictment with unlawfully obtaining U.S. citizenship in 2006 and with fraud and misuse of an alien registration card. The indictment also seeks to revoke his citizenship, a move that would subject him to deportation.

One of the legal skirmishes this past week was over documents obtained from a 2009 search warrant of his home that the government plans to introduce to bolster their case that the incorrect dates on his U.S. visa application indicating he did not live in Rwanda during the genocide were not a mistake.

“The fact he repeats this in other documents to other foreign agencies seeking asylum and or benefits clearly shows it was not a mistake nor was it an accident,” prosecutors said Thursday in a court filing. “Instead, this shows he lied to obtain his visa to enter the United States.”

Another contested exhibit this week relates to a document prosecutors contend shows one of Kobagaya’s motives for lying to what was then called the Immigration and Naturalization Service was to obtain government benefits.

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