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German court told to retry Rwandan convicted of war crimes

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German court told to retry Rwandan convicted of war crimes
Murwanashyaka during an MDR interview 10 years ago in November 2008. Photo: DPA
16:55 CET+01:00
A mammoth case against a Rwandan man accused of masterminding massacres in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo from his home in Germany, will have to be reopened, Germany's highest penal court ruled Thursday, overturning his conviction.

The Federal Court of Justice Thursday confirmed the verdict against Musoni. But it found that part of the case against Murwanashyaka was flawed - both in his favour and against.

"The guilty verdict is therefore to be completely annulled, even though the conviction of the accused as a leader of a terrorist organisation was without 
legal error per se," said the court.

Murwanashyaka had been found guilty of abetting five attacks by FDLR rebels 
on Congolese settlements in 2008-2009.

But the court said the initial verdict by the higher regional court of Stuttgart did not sufficiently prove that Murwanashyaka's support of at least one of the attacks was premeditated.

The judges ordered the Stuttgart tribunal to take a fresh look at his role in all five attacks.

They also disagreed with the previous decision not to judge the accused for crimes against humanity as well as war crimes.

Musoni was allowed to go free after the ruling because he had already been in pre-trial jail for almost six years and, therefore qualified for conditional release for good behaviour. Murwanashyaka currently remains in jail.

The original verdict in the case, after a trial that lasted more than four years, was at the time hailed as a breakthrough by the United Nations in efforts to bring FDLR commanders living abroad to justice.

The two Rwandans, who have lived in Germany for more than 20 years, were 
initially accused of 26 counts of crimes against humanity and 39 counts of war  crimes.

But over time that was whittled down to charges related specifically to the killings, in part because the court decided not to further tax the vulnerability of traumatised rape victims or child soldiers by making them appear before the hearing.

The judge back then said the difficulties encountered by the prosecution in  the biggest such trial in Germany as well as the length of time the case took had been "unacceptable".

 
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