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Former Rwandan leader's wife faces genocide charges

Juvenal Habyarimana was killed in April 1994 when his plane was shot down near the country's capital.
Juvenal Habyarimana was killed in April 1994 when his plane was shot down near the country's capital.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Agathe Habyarimana was arrested at her French home Tuesday morning
  • Charges include genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide, complicity to commit genocide
  • Juvenal Habyarimana killed in 1994 when his plane was shot down
  • Killing sparked genocide which led to deaths of some 800,000, mainly Tutsi minority, people
RELATED TOPICS
  • Rwanda
  • Genocide

Paris, France (CNN) -- The widow of former Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana, whose assassination sparked the 1994 genocide, was arrested Tuesday in Paris on a Rwandan warrant, French and Rwandan officials said.

Agathe Habyarimana was arrested at her French home Tuesday morning and is scheduled to appear in court later in the day, said a deputy prosecutor who declined to give his name because he is not authorized to speak about the matter.

Rwandan Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo told CNN that Habyarimana was arrested on genocide charges. They include genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide, complicity to commit genocide, and direct and public incitement to commit genocide, said John Bosco Mutangana, the head of Rwanda's Genocide Fugitives Tracking Unit.

The charges also cover crimes against humanity, specifically murder and extermination; creation of a criminal gang, namely the Hutu militias; and aiding and abetting the killings perpetrated by soldiers in violation of the Geneva Convention, Mutangana told CNN.

"We have of course strong evidence linking her to the genocide and the planning of the genocide itself, as early as the early 1990s," Mutangana said.

Former president was killed in April 1994 when his plane was shot down near the capital, Kigali. The mass killings began hours later, and by the time they ended 100 days later, some 800,000 people had been killed.

Most were members of the country's Tutsi minority, killed by members of the Hutu majority.

The circumstances surrounding Habyarimana's death remain a mystery. He was a Hutu, and speculation immediately fell on Tutsis as the perpetrators of the attack -- but some have also speculated that Hutus themselves shot down the plane to provide cover for the genocide.

Top officials such as army generals and politicians who allegedly took part in the genocide have been tried in the Rwandan justice system and the International Criminal Tribunal, which is based in Tanzania.

Civilians who allegedly contributed either directly or indirectly are tried by local communities in "gacaca" courts, which allow survivors to confront their attackers. Some human rights organizations have criticized the gacaca courts for falling short on delivering justice.

Agathe Habyarimana is now under temporary arrest, the French deputy prosecutor said. The Court of Appeal in Paris must now decide whether to remand her into custody or place her under judicial control at her home, he said.

After that, the French court must decide on the validity of the Rwandan warrant before any decision on extradition can be made, the deputy prosecutor said.

Rwandan officials began working on Agathe Habyarimana's case in 1995, but it took a while before they could gather enough evidence to indict her, Mutangana said. They submitted the indictment last October, he said.

Mutangana said Rwanda is hoping France will extradite her.

"We are the first beneficiaries of justice, the Rwandans," he said.

CNN's Alix Bayle in Paris, France, and Melissa Gray in London, England, contributed to this report.