MUHANGA — A former presidential contender in 2003 and former surgeon at Kabgayi hospital during the Genocide, was Tuesday sentenced to serve 15 years in prison for his role in the Genocide.
Gacaca appeal court of Gihuma presided over by Samuel Gatabazi, found Dr. Théoneste Niyitegeka, guilty of collaborating with the former government soldiers and Interahamwe militia- a move that allegedly claimed unknown number of injured patients who had sought treatment at the hospital, during the 1994 Genocide that claimed close to one million Rwandans.
Niyitegeka had earlier been acquitted of Genocide charges on October 30, 2007- on grounds of insufficient evidence; but survivors appealed the case on January 29, praying court to re-examine testimonies.
During Tuesday’s judgment, judges spent about ten hours examining the testimonies heard from the new witnesses on January 29.
The delay prompted protest from residents with some threatening to walk away before hearing the judgment. It took court President’s intervention to calm the situation.
The verdict stated: "Niyitegeka was found guilty of participating in the genocide by aiding soldiers who killed many patients at the hospital and yet he (Niyitegeka) didn’t plead guilty or confess the crimes within the provisions of the Gacaca regulations."
Court added that: "the verdict was based on the new evidence from the testimonies of the then hospital nurses and other employees who had not appeared in the earlier trial."
In what observers described as odd, Niyitegeka briefly held a brief interview with journalists, in which he contested the verdict describing it as ‘unfair and politically motivated.’
"I did not expect this sentence; this case has taken a political dimension. I know that I did a lot of credible things for residents then, and that is worth noting," Niyitegeka said.
He added that "the sentence is not important but it sends a bad signal to the whole community."
Niyitegeka was sent to Gitarama central prison but he has the opportunity to appeal the case within 15 days.