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Rwanda releases genocide prisoners

Survivors of the 1994 massacre are alarmed as 8,000 walk free.

February 20, 2007|From Reuters

KIGALI, RWANDA — Eight thousand prisoners accused of involvement in Rwanda's 1994 genocide were released Monday, prompting anger from survivors who fear new ethnic killings.

Rwanda's prisons have been overflowing with thousands of inmates, some convicted and others awaiting trial in the slayings of an estimated 800,000 Tutsis and Hutu moderates by Hutu extremists.

"The group that has been released excludes key masterminds of the genocide," said Rwanda's chief prosecutor, Martin Ngoga.

Since a 2003 provisional release decreed by President Paul Kagame, the tiny Central African nation has freed up to 60,000 genocide suspects, including the sick, the elderly and minors.

The Rwandan government has said the releases will ease overcrowding in the prisons and foster reconciliation.

But as with the earlier releases, genocide survivors expressed outrage. They accuse freed inmates of planning or carrying out more ethnic killings.

"They should ensure that they keep an eye on these people because some of them continue to harbor a genocide ideology," said Theodore Simburudali, president of the Ibuka genocide survivors group.

Hundreds already freed have since been rearrested after committing other crimes, many while trying to destroy evidence related to their alleged involvement in the genocide.

New York-based Human Rights Watch recently warned there could be more killings of genocide survivors by perpetrators of the massacre who want to eliminate evidence against them.

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