Influence of Roman Catholic Church in Acquittal of Rwandan Bishop Debated

Augustin Misago cleared of 1994 genocide charges

The acquittal of a Catholic bishop on genocide charges reflects the influence of the Church on institutions of government, some political analysts in Kigali, Rwanda, contend. Others say they are dissatisfied with the verdict, but insist that the country's judicial system operated independently and was not unduly influenced by appeals from Pope John Paul II and high-ranking church officials in Rwanda. Bishop Augustin Misago, 57, of Gikongoro Diocese, was acquitted Thursday of all charges of genocide and crimes against humanity. Presiding Judge Rutatremara Sekarusu Jalier ordered his immediate release and fined the Rwandan government $276 (FRW 100,000) for court costs. Misago was in Kigali's central prison for 26 months on seven charges of genocide and crimes against humanity. The bishop, who looked tired and ill, told Newsroom after the verdict, "I always said I was innocent, but I am happy that the court has exonerated me at long last."Prosecutors Gerald Gahima and Edward Kayihura said they would appeal the verdict. Maitre Frederick Mutagwera, president of Ibuka, a national genocide survivors association, said he was disappointed with the verdict and argued that most people accused of genocide are acquitted despite the large number of witnesses who testify.More than 800,000 people, most of them Tutsis and some moderate Hutus, were killed in fighting in 1994. Many survivors have accused priests and nuns of the Roman Catholic Church of complicity in the killing. Bishop Misago was the highest-ranking Catholic charged. Rwanda is primarily Catholic. Narcisse Musoni, acting general secretary of the Genocide Survivors assistance fund, said if the acquittal is not reversed, "there would be cause to doubt our judiciary.""The manner ...

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