In closing arguments of genocide case, both sides accuse witnesses of giving scripted testimony
- Prudence Kantengwa walks out of the Concord Federal Courthouse with her sister, Beatrice Munyenyezi, after Munyenyezi was released on bail; Thursday, April 12, 2012. A Massachusetts jury found Kantengwa guilty of immigration fraud.
(Alexander Cohn/ Monitor staff)
- Beatrice Munyenyezi (center) turns to speak to reporters as she leaves the Concord Federal Courthouse after being released on bail; Thursday, April 12, 2012. Munyenyezi is facing a second trial on charges that she participated in the 1994 Rwandan genocide then lied about her involvement to seek asylum in the United States. The manchester resident's first trial resulted in a mistrial though prosecutors are planning to retry the case.
(Alexander Cohn/ Monitor staff)
As Beatrice Munyenyezi's trial closed yesterday, her lawyers accused the government's witnesses of speaking from a script and adding the Manchester woman to the plot of well-known stories of the Rwandan genocide that she had no part in. The prosecutor, though, argued the narratives were too unique to be coordinated.
Not all of the witnesses placed Munyeneyzi at the roadblock where she is accused of separating Tutsis to be slaughtered or raped. Not all said they saw her wearing clothing of the party that had ordered the violence. Not all even said they knew her by name.
Instead, Assistant U.S. Attorney John Capin told the jury in his closing argument that they have heard deeply personal accounts – each in which Munyenyezi played a different role – of a tragedy that took place nearly two decades ago.
"If there's a dominant narrative, shouldn't the narrative be, 'I know her.'? . . . Shouldn't she be wielding a machete?" Capin asked at U.S. District Court in Concord.
After two weeks of testimony, the jury will begin deliberating this morning, charged with deciding whether Munyenyezi lied about her participation in the genocide on her path to U.S. citizenship. That process started with a refugee application filed in Kenya and ended with a naturalization ceremony in the very courthouse where she is now being tried. Her lawyers yesterday said she had nothing to hide, and they pointed to all the things that she had divulged but that didn't concern immigration officials at the time.
In documents that span eight years, Munyenyezi identified the name of her husband (a man since convicted by an international court of genocide) and later said she had taken a trip to see him in Tanzania (where his trial was taking place). Defense attorney Mark Howard said she had listed the name of her mother-in-law and the fact that she was a cabinet minister in the government. (That woman has also been convicted in the international court.) And she said her father-in-law was head of the Rwandan university, also a politically appointed position.
Howard said U.S. officials had no problem with her various applications when they were filed. And he speculated that the government only became interested in Munyenyezi after she testified on her husband's behalf in Tanzania. In fact, he said, U.S. agents requested access to Munyenyezi's immigration file only three months after she spoke at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.
"Somebody was watching. Somebody couldn't wait to peg her," Howard said. "Who do you think that was? The U.S. government? Nope. The Rwandan government. They're the ones that had a stake at the ICTR."<