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German court overturns Rwandan’s war crimes conviction

BERLIN (AP) — A German federal court on Thursday overturned the conviction of a Rwandan man sentenced to 13 years in prison as an accessory to war crimes in eastern Congo.

In 2015, a Stuttgart court convicted Ignace Murwanashyaka and Straton Musoni over their roles as the former president and vice president, respectively, of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, a mostly ethnic Hutu militia. Both were convicted of leading a terrorist organization. Murwanashyaka was also convicted on four counts of being an accessory to war crimes.

Germany’s Federal Court of Justice rejected an appeal by Musoni, who was given an eight-year sentence, but overturned Murwanashyaka’s conviction and sent his case back for a retrial.

The court cited legal errors in the reasoning of the original verdict that could have counted both for and against Murwanashyaka, including doubts about the war crimes conviction and whether he encouraged or facilitated attacks on villages. The court said that section of the Stuttgart court’s verdict was contradictory in parts.

The Stuttgart court said that Murwanashyaka was the international representative of the group known by its French acronym FDLR, coordinated its activities and, as a member of its executive committee, issued statements denying or covering up crimes it committed.

The Stuttgart court found that he facilitated attacks by FDLR rebels in 2009 on the Congolese villages of Mianga, Busurungi, Chiriba and Manje, though it didn’t find evidence that he ordered the attacks as a military commander.

The two men, who had lived in Germany since the 1980s, were arrested in November 2009.

The FDLR is made up mostly of Hutu refugees from Rwanda who took shelter across the border in Congo after the 1994 genocide in which more than 800,000 people were killed, mostly ethnic Tutsis but also moderate Hutus.

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