PARIS (Reuters) - A French court has dropped a long-running case against a Rwandan priest suspected of war crimes and crimes against humanity for his role in the 1994 Rwandan genocide, a source at the prosecutor’s office said on Tuesday.
The court decision follows a request by prosecutors in August for the case be dropped for lack of evidence.
Wenceslas Munyeshyaka who officiates as a priest in Gisors, Normandy, was put under formal investigation for genocide, crimes against humanity, participation in a conspiracy to commit the crimes and torture while he was a priest in Kigali’s Holy Family Catholic Church.
More than 800,000 minority Tutsis and politically moderate Hutus were killed in the three-month rampage by ethnic Hutu extremists.
Munyeshyaka, who has always denied the charges, was tried by a military court in absentia in Rwanda for similar crimes including rape and sentenced to life in prison in 2006.
His lawyer Jean-Yves Dupeux, told Reuters on Tuesday that there were contradictory witnesses during the French investigation and his client had helped some 18,000 refugees as much as he could during the genocide.
The court decision could anger rights groups, as well as Rwanda, which has accused France of refusing to try the priest in an investigation that began in 1995.
Alain Gauthier, president of an association in France that represents Rwandan victims, said he would look into all legal means of appeal.
“I am sure that this decision will be very unpopular in Rwanda where confidence in the French justice system no longer exists,” he said.
Rwanda’s ambassador to France could not be immediately reached for comment.
Reporting by Chine Labbe; Writing by Bate Felix; Editing by Alison Williams