A Paris court has jailed for life two former Rwandan mayors over a massacre in their village of Kabarondo in 1994. Some 2,000 people, mostly Tutsis, were killed while seeking refuge in a church - some with machetes.
Octavien Ngenzi, now 58, and his mayoral predecesssor Tito Barahira, 64, were found guilty Wednesday of crimes against humanity, genocide and systematic summary executions after an eight-week trial in France.
They had denied any involvement.
Witnesses had told the Paris court that Barahira and Ngenzi took leading roles in the massacre by the genocidal Hutu "Interahamwe" militia on April 13, 1994 at the church, where several thousand Tutsis and moderate Hutus had gathered.
Only a few hundred survived the mass killing.
'Cut them down'
A father and husband, Jean-Damascene Rutagungira, who lost 21 family members, including his wife and children, said the pair had shouted "cut them down."
A mother and wife, who lost her seven children and husband, said they were killed by grenades and machetes. Ngenzi had "supervised" the massacre, said Marie Mukamunana.
Prosecutor Philippe Courroye described Barahira as the "dreaded machete officer."
Defense lawyers had portrayed the pair as having been helpless to stop the chaos.
A lawyer for civil parties, Gilles Paruelle, told the jury: "To kill one man, hatred is sufficient. To kill 1,000, you need organization."
Some 90 witnesses and six experts had testified at the trial.
Bloodshed continued until July
During a three-month rampage, that followed the downing of a plane carrying Rwanda's president, Juvenal Habyarimana, Hutu extremists killed more than 800,000 people, mostly ethnic Tutsis.
The bloodshed in Kabarondo, near Rwanda's border with Tanzania, lasted until late April 1994.
It took until July of that year before Tutsi fighters of the now ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front (FPR) led by Paul Kagame prevailed over Hutu extremists in the former Belgian colony.
Latest genocide-related trial
The Paris convictions are the latest in a series of genocide-related trials conducted in recent years in Rwanda and other countries.
In May, a Swedish court sentenced a 61-year-old man to life in prison for the same genocide.
The Paris trial was the second such case tried in France since its parliament adopted a law giving it universal jurisdiction over cases of crimes against humanity.
In 2012, France created a special investigation unit to prepare cases against Rwandan suspects detained on French territory.
Diplomatic ties between Rwanda and France were broken off in 2006 in a row over who killed Habyarimana. Ties were restored in 2009.
Netanyahu visits Rwanda
The Paris' verdicts coincided with a visit Wednesday by Netanyahu: Africa has no better friend than IsraelIsraeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Rwanda#.
Netanyahu laid a wreath at mass graves, saying Israel was reminded by the "haunting similarities to the genocide our own people."
He said genocide was "a unique bond that neither one of our peoples will prefer to have" but said both countries have persevered to become "successful states and models for partners."
The Israeli premier, who is pursuing closer security and other ties with African nations, has also visited Uganda and on Thursday makes a visit to Ethiopia.
Israel played a prominent role in assisting newly independent Africa states in the 960s. In the 1970s, Arab nations pressure African nations to severe those ties.
ipj/kms (AP, AFP, Reuters)