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Trio freed over former Rwandan minister's murder

The murdered man's widow claims Rwandan President Paul Kagame ordered his killing
The murdered man's widow claims Rwandan President Paul Kagame ordered his killing  

NAIROBI, Kenya -- Three men accused of murdering a former Rwandan minister have been acquitted by a Kenyan court.

Akiki Kiwanuka, a Rwandan, Charles Wamuthoni and Christopher Mulundo, both Ugandans, were arrested shortly after the killing of former Rwandan Interior Minister Seth Sendashonga in May 1998.

Justice Mbogholi Msagha, who acquitted the trio on Thursday, said the prosecution had not produced compelling evidence that they had murdered Sendashonga and his driver.

"The prosecution did not prove that the men who killed Sendashonga, were the ones in court," the Hirondelle News Agency quoted Mbogholi as saying.

"I am convinced the murder was political," he added.

Sendashonga was shot dead in his car in broad daylight in Nairobi on May 16, 1998, along with his driver.

It was the second assassination attempt on his life. In Nairobi in 1996 he was slightly injured by a gunman.

On that occasion, a Rwandan diplomat was arrested near the crime scene, in possession of the firearm used to shoot him.

Justice Msagha said he thought the driver may have been killed to "ensure the killer's identity was not discovered."

Days after the murders, Amnesty International said it believed the killing was "a blatant political assassination," likely to have been prompted by his criticism of human rights abuses by the government.

Just days before his murder, Sendashonga had agreed to testify in the trial of a compatriot charged by a U.N. court with genocide.

Defence lawyer Pascal Besnier told the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) that Sendashonga had agreed to speak in defence of his client Obed Ruzindana, Hirondelle reported.

Ruzindana and Clement Kayishema were jointly charged with genocide, inciting genocide and crimes against humanity during the slaughter of over 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus in Rwanda in 1994.

Sendashonga, a moderate Hutu, resigned from the Tutsi-dominated Rwandan government in 1995.

He had repeatedly complained about alleged human rights abuses by the Rwandan Patriotic Front which seized power after the country's genocide the previous year.

He went into exile in Kenya, where his worked for a United Nation's agency.

During the trial, his wife -- now resident in Canada -- returned to Kenya to testify that she believed her husband had been assassinated on the orders of Rwanda's current president, Paul Kagame.

• Government of Rwanda

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