The first ever trial related to Rwandan Genocide case to be heard in the United States began of Tuesday.
Lazare Kobagaya, 83, is the first suspect to stand trial on American soil on charges related to crimes committed during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
Last week, a Federal judge in the US rejected a defence bid to dismiss Kobagaya’s charges, ruling that he should stand trial for suspected Genocide crimes.
Kobagaya had sought the dismissal on the claims that US government was paying off “impoverished witnesses” in Rwanda to make a fair trial impossible.
Following the ruling, jury selection started on Tuesday in the central US city of Wichita, Kansas.
Prior to the case, Judge Monti Belot warned the jurors that some of the evidence to be used against Kobagaya would be “pretty grim and disturbing” and that several witnesses are “people who actually participated in the Genocide”.
According to the indictment, Kobagaya was a wealthy man who lived in the southern part of the country during the Genocide, where it is alleged that he organised and incited killing of Tutsis on several occasions.
Kobagaya, through his lawyers, had successfully managed to cover up his crimes and had unlawfully obtained US citizenship in 2006 by claiming he lived in Burundi from 1993 to 1995.
However, when he gave a statement on behalf of Francois Bazaramba, who was convicted of Genocide by a Finnish court, US investigators embarked on a mission to uncover his past, after which they established that he had actually lied to obtain citizenship.
US Federal prosecutors insist that Kobagaya was in Rwanda in 1994 and participated in the slaughter of thousands of Tutsis, contrary to his claims that he was in neighbouring Burundi at the time.
He is accused of participating in the 1994 Rwandan Genocide but his trial will mainly focus on naturalisation fraud and misuse of an alien registration card.
US investigators have put together over 50 witnesses, to attest to Kobagaya’s role in the Genocide.