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Rwanda9 November 2005

Jailed Belgian priest and ex-editor is innocent and must be freed, says Reporters Without Borders

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Reporters Without Borders called today for the immediate release of a Belgian Catholic priest and former editor, Father Guy Theunis, from a prison in Rwanda where he is being held for supposed complicity in genocide.

The worldwide press freedom organisation said in a report by a fact-finding mission it sent to Rwanda that Theunis was “innocent” and that the accusations against him had been “trumped up at the last minute” by “a handful of people driven by personal or political motives.”

It said the evidence against Theunis, former editor of the magazine Dialogue who has been in Kigali’s central prison for since 6 September, presented “before, during and since” he appeared before a grassroots gacaca court on 11 September, was “baseless.”

Theunis was victim of a “personal political vendetta by a group of regime figures” who used his brief recent stopover in Rwanda to punish him for his religious stands, his criticism of the ruling Rwanda Patriotic Front (FPR) for human rights violations or simply to settle personal scores.

A Reporters Without Borders team visited the country from 30 September to 7 October to investigate the case and visited Theunis in prison and met several prosecution witnesses from his gacaca hearing, when he was declared a prime genocide suspect (a planner or inciter).

Theunis, 60, is a member of the White Fathers Missionary Society (also known as the Missionaries of Africa) and lived in Rwanda from 1970 until 1994. His accusers say he incited ethnic hatred and denied the country’s genocide. His defenders say he is really in prison for exposing the RPR’s human rights violations.

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