Munyenyezi found guilty in Rwandan genocide case, stripped of citizenship
Beatrice Munyenyezi, right, leaves Federal Court Thursday April 12, 2012 in Concord, N.H. after a judge is released her as she awaits a second trial on whether she lied about her role in the 1994 Rwanda genocide to obtain U.S. citizenship. A federal jury deadlocked last month on whether Munyenyezi commandeered a roadblock during the genocide and designated Tutsis for rape and murder. She's been incarcerated since June 2010. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)
Beatrice Munyenyezi was stripped of her citizenship today, moments after a jury found her guilty of lying on immigration forms about her role in Rwanda’s genocide.
As the verdict was read, Munyenyezi leaned her head forward and began to sob. One of her three daughters, whom she moved to Manchester with as a refugee in 1998, also buried her head in her hands and cried.
In a courtroom just down the hall from the one where Munyenyezi attended her naturalization ceremony in 2003, U.S. District Court Judge Steven McAuliffe immediately revoked her citizenship.
“The defendant’s certificate of naturalization is hereby declared canceled,” McAuliffe said.
The judge also ordered that Munyenyezi, who has been on house arrest since a first trial in her case ended with a hung jury last March, be taken back into custody. He said her lawyers could file a motion requesting she remain on home confinement until her sentencing.
The jury began deliberating this morning and reached a verdict after about four hours.
At trial, a prosecutor described Munyenyezi as a piece in the “machinery” of Rwanda’s 1994 genocide, saying she did not carry out the killings but was just as guilty of those crimes because she helped identify Tutsis to be slaughtered at a roadblock outside of her family’s hotel. She was described as an active member of the political party that ordered the violence, and several witnesses described seeing her in that group’s clothing.
And while prosecutors made it clear that Munyenyezi shouldn’t be found guilty by association, prosecutors did stress her political connections as witnesses testified that her mother-in-law was a high-ranking cabinet minister and her husband was leader of the local youth militia.
Munyenyezi’s lawyers attempted to convince the jury that her family connections led to her being falsely accused. Defense attorney Mark Howard argued in his closing that U.S. investigators were approached about Munyenyezi by Rwandan officials shortly after the woman testified on her husband’s behalf at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.
He said the witnesses who testified against Munyenyezi felt pressure to oblige the authoritarian government and added the woman to well-known stories of the genocide that she had no part in. The defense produced five Rwandan witnesses of their own who said Munyenyezi never once left the hotel during the genocide.
Munyenyezi will be sentenced in June. She’s facing 10 years incarceration followed by deportation, according to her lawyer David Ruoff.
(Tricia L. Nadolny can be reached at 369-3306 or email@example.com or on Twitter at @tricia_nadolny.)