December 1, 2009 / 7:16 PM / 9 years ago

Rwanda banker gets 30-year sentence for war crimes

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - A former Rwandan bank director was sentenced on Tuesday to 30 years in prison by a Belgian court which found him guilty of war crimes including murder, attempted murder and rape during the 1994 genocide.

Ephraim Nkezabera, 57, was not present in court and did not attend the trial, which started just over three weeks ago, because of ill health. He is undergoing chemotherapy for cancer.

The jury followed the prosecutor’s advice in giving him the 30-year sentence, rather than a life term.

Nkezabera had previously admitted accusations including inciting violence, threatening minority Tutsis with genocide, and providing Hutu militias with weapons. He denied charges of rape, saying the women had consented to sexual intercourse.

“This is a huge relief. He ordered people to be killed and raped women ... But 30 years, we had not expected this,” Bernadette Trachet, whose brother was killed in the genocide, told Reuters.

“Symbolically, this is a very important decision,” she said, adding it would set an example for future and pending cases.

Ethnic Hutu militia and soldiers slaughtered 800,000 minority Tutsis and moderate Hutus in just 100 days during the 1994 massacre that killed 800,000 Rwandans.

Nkezabera, a former director of the Commercial Bank of Rwanda, has been described by witnesses as one of the engines of the Interahamwe militia, for which he provided funding.

He was also found guilty of financing privately owned Radio Television Libre des Mille Collines (RTLM), which was used to spread anti-Tutsi propaganda.

He was arrested in June 2004 by the Belgian authorities while visiting a family member in Belgium.

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