April 14-16, 2000
volume 11, no. 75
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NEWS & VIEWS     Acknowledgments
Articles provided through Catholic World News and Church News at Noticias Eclesiales and International Dossiers, Daily Dispatches and Features at ZENIT International News Agency. CWN, NE and ZENIT are not affiliated with the Daily CATHOLIC but provide this service via e-mail to the Daily CATHOLIC Monday through Friday.

Defence is Optimistic, But He Could Still Be Sentenced to Death

    KIGALI, APR 13 ( A year has gone by since Bishop Augustine Misago of Gikongoro was arrested and incarcerated in a prison built for 1,500 where some 7,000 Rwandans accused of genocide lie wasting. The proofs rest on what the people think rather than objective evidence.

    Rwanda lives in an atmosphere of suspicion, vengeance, and ethnic rivalries. Tutsis and Hutus have succeeded one another in power, sometimes by the use of force. At present, the Tutsis are in control; many Hutus run the risk of being accused of genocide simply by extension. Others killed their Tutsi neighbors, driven by Hutu leaders' threats to their life and family; these leaders then fled the country, leaving these Hutus to "take the rap."

    Bishop Misago serenely awaits the verdict in the last phase of his trial by a special court; it will be heard on April 17. "He is at peace because he is certain of his innocence and because he doesn't feel abandoned," reliable sources in Kigali reported. The prison authorities "have a profound respect for Bishop Misago's person." They have given him a small, separate cell where he celebrates Mass every day and spends his time in prayer and reading. He wears the uniform of those accused of genocide, including a pink shirt, but he never removes his pectoral cross or episcopal ring. The Rwandan prison system does not feed prisoners; they must receive food from outside.

    There is not much news to report on the trial. According to the defense, "there are no direct proofs of the accusations and none of the 24 witnesses of the accusation have implicated the Bishop materially in the genocide." The lawyers are optimistic; however, there are only three possible outcomes: death, a life sentence or acquittal.

    The whole affair has placed relations between the government and the Church at the forefront. The Church is accused of being responsible and of not allowing several Catholic churches to become cemeteries and monuments of the genocide. Lately, however, there has been some relaxation, and prison authorities have not prevented the media from entering Kilgali's central prison. It must not be forgotten, however, that the Church has paid a high price as a result of the genocide in Rwanda. It has cost the life of 3 bishops, 123 priests (of whom 109 were diocesan) and over 300 Sisters. ZE00041302


April 14-16, 2000
volume 11, no. 75

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