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Rwandan ex-mayors appeal against French life sentences

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A courtroom sketch from 10 May 2016 shows Tito Barahira (back, left) and Octavien Ngenzi (back, right) BENOIT PEYRUCQ/AFP

Two former Rwandan mayors accused of orchestrating the massacre of hundreds of Tutsis, appeared before a Paris appeal court on Wednesday, to appeal their life sentences.


Octavien Ngenzi, 60, and his predecessor, Tito Barahira, 67, were sentenced to life in prison in 2016 for crimes against humanity and genocide committed in their village of Kabarondo.

Some 2,000 people who were seeking refuge in a church were bludgeoned and hacked to death during the 1994 genocide.

Ngenzi and Barahira have consistently denied being responsible for the massacre.

Their sentence was the longest ever passed by a French court for a genocide-related offence and followed the conviction of former army captain Pascal Simbikangwa to 25 years in solitary confinement.

Former Rwandan diplomat Justin Bahunga told RFI he was concerned the defendants may not get a fair hearing and their lawyer, Fabrice Epstein, said they were convicted on the basis of "very general" evidence, claiming that witnesses who have come from Rwanda might be under pressure.

"France has given itself the possibility of judging major mass crimes by suspected genocidaires, especially those who may be on its territory," Michel Laval, a lawyer for the 34 individuals and campaign groups that support the prosecution said. "So the challenge is legial, political, judicial and historic."