26 April 2011 Witchita, Kansas is the scene for the trial of a man accused of orchestrating acts of violence during the widespread genocide that took place in Rwanda in 1994. The trial takes place in our immigration court. According to the indictment Kobagaya "mobilized attackers and coerced them to continue their participation in the killing of Tutsi."
If convicted Lazare Kobagaya will be subject to a fine of up to $250,000, 10 years in prison and having his U.S. citizenship revoked.
Lazare Kobagaya is accused of falsifying information as to his whereabouts during the genocide, saying he was residing in Burundi from 1993 until 1995. In statements made during his interview before obtaining his citizenship and on documents Kobagaya claimed
Charges against Kobagaya include fraud, misuse of his alien registration card and unlawfully obtaining his U.S. citizenship in 2006. 50 witnessess from overseas have been brought in to testify that Kobagaya, was in fact, directing the acts of violence.
A Federal judge has rejected the Defenses attempt to dismiss the charges based on payments to "impoverished witnesses" who are being paid for their time and expenses related to the trial. The defense claims these payments (or bribes) make it impossible for a fair trial to be had. U.S. District Judge Monti Belot ruled the payments were reasonable.
"Defendant has failed to show that the government's actions in this case is an offer for something that is not normally offered and inconsistent with the regular role of the prosecutor," Belot wrote. "It is entirely reasonable to compensate a witness for time and expenses in meeting with a government attorney to prepare for trial as long as the amounts paid are reasonable."
"The government did not exceed the per diem rate for its witnesses and was actually significantly below the rate allowed," the ruling continues. "The government asserts that these payments are proper and that any other finding would 'lead to the counterintuitive and counterproductive end of forcing potential government witnesses to pay their own travel and subsistence costs associated with voluntary meetings.'"
In a statement to the Sunday Times, a Prosecutor for the Government of Rwanda, General Martin Ngoga said, "We welcome the beginning of the trial, the first ever on Rwanda Genocide by the United States. Our role will be to facilitate as and when asked to. In the end, we hope this will open the avenue for more trials since in that country, there are a number of other Genocide suspects who also must have their day before Justice."
"Kobagaya is not the only one and America's Law Enforcement Organs are aware of that," he added.
Jury selection occurs this week, with the actual trial to follow next week. Lazare Kobagaya currently resides in Kansas, where the trial is taking place.