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German court told to retry Rwandan convicted of war crimes

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.

German court told to retry Rwandan convicted of war crimes
Murwanashyaka during an MDR interview 10 years ago in November 2008. Photo: DPA

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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ANGELA MERKEL

Merkel condemns Stuttgart rampage as ‘abhorrent’

German Chancellor Angela Merkel sharply condemned a violent rampage in Stuttgart, her spokesman said Monday, calling the brutal attacks against police officers and the looting of shops by hundreds of people "abhorrent".

Merkel condemns Stuttgart rampage as 'abhorrent'
A sign reading 'Create, don't destroy' in front of one of the damaged windows on Monday. Photo: DPA

“Whoever has done this has turned against their city, against the people with whom they live and against the laws that protect us all,” said Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert of the riots that erupted over the weekend.

READ ALSO: Shock in Germany as hundreds run riot in Stuttgart

German authorities have expressed shock over the rampage of an “unprecedented scale” in the early hours of Sunday in the city centre of Stuttgart, where hundreds of partygoers ran riot, attacking police and plundering stores after smashing shop windows.

Two dozen people, half of them German nationals, were arrested provisionally, as police reported at least 19 colleagues hurt.

Tensions built up shortly after midnight when officers carried out checks on a 17-year-old German man suspected of using drugs, Stuttgart deputy police chief Thomas Berger said.

Crowds who were milling around at the city's biggest square, the Schlossplatz, immediately rallied around the young man and began flinging stones and bottles at police.

The groups of mostly men also used sticks or poles to smash windows of police vehicles parked around the square, which is next to the regional parliament of Baden-Württemberg as well as the state's finance ministry.

At the height of the hours-long clashes, some 400 to 500 people joined in the battle against police officers and rescue workers.

In a speech on Monday, President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said perpetrators of the rampage must be “prosecuted and punished with all the severity of the law”.

“We must resolutely oppose anyone who attacks police officers, who shows contempt for them or gives the impression that they should be 'disposed of',” said the president.

Interior Minister Horst Seehofer is due to visit Stuttgart along with his state interior minister Thomas Strobl to take stock of the trail of destruction left behind in the rampage.

Contempt

He also pointed to the worrying trend that police and emergency workers were increasingly coming under attack, both physically and verbally.

“Besides the attacks and insults, there is also disparagement — and that can hurt just like physical violence,” he said, stressing that politicians must stand behind the police.

In a speech on Monday, President Frank-Walter Steinmeier sent the same message.

“We must resolutely oppose anyone who attacks police officers, who shows
contempt for them or gives the impression that they should be 'disposed of',”
he said.

Police unions and emergency workers have been warning of authorities increasingly coming under attack as they go about their work.

Tensions have also spilled over from the Black Lives Matter demonstrations
in the United States where officers are accused of being racist.

In a separate incident in Germany's Lower Saxony state, several police officers were injured while enforcing a coronavirus quarantine imposed on 700 residents of a high-rise building.

And the police union DPolG has filed a lawsuit against a columnist of left-leaning daily TAZ over an article titled: “All cops are unfit for the job”.

On Monday, Seehofer said he too was considering filing a complaint against
the writer, warning that irresponsible speech can lead to dramatic consequences.

 

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