Essex man wins extradition battle

A MAN arrested in Walton on the Naze for allegedly taking part in the 1994 Rwandan genocide yesterday won a High Court battle against extradition from Britain yesterday.

Roddy Ashworth

A MAN arrested in Walton on the Naze for allegedly taking part in the 1994 Rwandan genocide yesterday won a High Court battle against extradition from Britain yesterday.

Celestin Ugirashebuja, along with Vincent Bajinya, Emmanuel Nteziryayo and Charles Munyaneza, had been held under a memorandum of understanding in which Rwanda waived the death penalty.

But two judges ruled that there was “a real risk they would suffer a flagrant denial of justice” if they were forced to return to Rwanda to face trial.

All four are accused of killing, or conspiring with or aiding and abetting others, to kill members of the Tutsi ethnic group “with the intent to destroy in whole, or in part, that group”.

But yesterday Lord Justice Laws and Lord Justice Sullivan, sitting at London's High Court, allowed their appeals against Home Secretary Jacqui Smith's orders that they be extradited.

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The judges said there was evidence that defence witnesses were afraid to give evidence.

The judges declared: “We conclude that if (the four) were extradited to face trial in the High Court of Rwanda, the appellants would suffer a real risk of a flagrant denial of justice by reason of their likely inability to adduce the evidence of supporting witnesses.”

The judges also ruled there was a real risk “of executive (government) interference with the judiciary” in Rwanda.

They also refused the Rwandan government, represented by the Crown Prosecution Service, permission to appeal to the House of Lords against their ruling.

The judges ordered that the four men, who have been in custody since December 2006, must now be set free.

Mr Ugirashebuja, 54, was a well-known member of Frinton Parish Church and was sent many letters and cards of support while being held at Belmarsh Prison awaiting his court hearing.

Yesterday fellow church-goer and friend Mabel Jones, of Frinton, said news that he would not be extradited was “wonderful”.

She added: “This is absolutely fantastic. We have been praying for justice to be done.

“He was acquitted in Rwanda by the courts, and then afterwards the judges were arrested and the people who gave evidence were mistreated. Some even had to flea the country.

“It is obvious that he is not guilty. All the local people stood up for him and were delighted when he was acquitted.”

However Tim Hancock, campaigns director of Amnesty International UK, said: “We welcome today's decision taken by the High Court, but the UK needs to take immediate steps to ensure that the charges against these four men are heard either here, or in another country which would be willing to submit the case for prosecution in a fair trial.”