ARUSHA, Tanzania – A U.N. court convicted the organizer of the 1994 Rwandan genocide that left more than 500,000 people dead and sentenced him to life in prison Thursday along with two co-defendants.
Theoneste Bagosora was found guilty of genocide and crimes against humanity, Judge Erik Moses said.
The judge said Bagosora organized and armed the notorious Interahamwe militia, and used his position as the former director of Rwanda's Ministry of Defense to direct Hutu soldiers to kill Tutsis and moderate Hutus.
Bagosora also was found responsible for the deaths of former Rwandan Prime Minister Agathe Uwilingiyimana and 10 Belgian peacekeepers.
The Tanzania-based International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda was set up by the U.N. in 1997 to try those responsible for the killings.
Also Thursday, former military commanders Anatole Nsegiyumva and Alloys Ntabakuze were found guilty of genocide and sentenced to life in prison. The former chief of military operations, Brigadier Gratien Kabiligi, was cleared of all charges and released.
Earlier in the day, Protais Zigiranyirazo was convicted of organizing a massacre in which hundreds of Tutsis died, and was sentenced to 20 years. He has already served seven.
The massacres took place in 1994 after the Rwandan president's plane was mysteriously shot down over Kigali as he returned home from peace talks with Tutsi-led rebels.
Hours after the crash, the Interahamwe set up roadblocks across Kigali and the next day began killing Tutsis and moderate Hutus. The slaughter eventually ended after Tutsi rebels invaded from neighboring Uganda and drove out the genocidal forces.