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Home » News » Crime

January 23. 2013 10:58PM

New witnesses to testify about Rwandan genocide at retrial

CONCORD - Federal prosecutors will call 11 new Rwandan witnesses to testify at the retrial of a Manchester woman accused of lying about her role in the 1994 Rwandan genocide to illegally enter the United States and become a citizen.

The 11 Rwandan citizens did not testify at Beatrice Munyenyezi's first trial in U.S. District Court in Concord - which ended in mistrial last March after jurors could not reach a unanimous verdict on the two counts of unlawfully procuring citizenship.

Trial begins with jury selection Feb. 4.

The government also may call some - but not likely all - of the witnesses who previously testified when Munyenyezi, 43, stands trial a second time.

The government accuses Munyenyezi of presiding over murders, rapes and kidnappings in her Rwandan homeland, then lying about her role in the mass killings of mostly ethnic Tutsis on her refugee application in 1995 and when she applied for U.S. citizenship in 2002.

U.S. District Judge Steven J. McAuliffe granted defense attorneys' request to postpone the trial, initially set for September, to allow them time to investigate the new witnesses' "backgrounds, potential biases, possible cultural and political influences" and whether they made statements inconsistent with their proposed testimony.

"That takes time, effort and money, but counsel have little choice given the government's determination to present what is essentially a new cast during the retrial," McAuliffe wrote in his Aug. 29 order.

During the first trial, many of the government's key witnesses "were effectively impeached" as a result of the defense team's investigative and preparatory work, McAuliffe said.

This "is not an ordinary case," the judge wrote in his order to continue the retrial.

Trial preparation for both sides is "unusually difficult" due to "difficulties associated with traveling to Rwanda, diplomatic issues, cultural differences, language barriers and complexities associated with arranging Rwandan witness travel to this county."

Defense attorneys Mark E. Howard and David W. Ruoff of the Manchester law firm Howard & Ruoff did not return calls for comment Wednesday; neither did Special Assistant U.S. Attorneys John A. Capin and Aloke S. Chakravarty.

Munyenyezi arrived in New York City in 1998 as a refugee, moved to New Hampshire in 2002 and became a citizen in 2003. She was living with her three daughters in Manchester when she was arrested in 2010.

At her 2012 trial, prosecutors argued Munyenyezi belonged to the ruling Hutu political party and was a ring leader of the extremist youth militia that ordered killings and gang rapes from a roadblock she worked outside a hotel owned by her husband's family in the Butare province of Rwanda.

An estimated 800,000 people were killed during the three-month period known as the Rwandan genocide that began in April 1994.

But defense attorneys claimed Munyenyezi, who was pregnant with twins at the time, stayed at the hotel to be safe and to care for her eldest daughter. They maintained she never participated in the mass killings nor had any involvement in the ruling political party.

The defense also noted Munyenyezi was never implicated in the crimes despite a 10-year trial of her husband, Shalom Ntahobali, and her mother-in-law, Pauline Nyiramasuhuko, before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. The two were convicted of genocide and human rights violations in 2011. They are serving life prison terms and are appealing their convictions.

Munyenyezi's sister, Prudence Kantengwa, also was convicted last May in U.S. District Court in Boston of perjury stemming from her immigration proceedings. She is appealing the conviction. The same prosecutors who won Kantengwa's conviction are prosecuting Munyenyezi. Munyenyezi was released on house arrest in April. She has been living in Manchester pending retrial.

kmarchocki@unionleader.com


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