TOWSON, Md. – A Maryland college professor accused of genocide in his home country of Rwanda has been arrested for being in the U.S. illegally, immigration officials said Thursday.
Leopold Munyakazi, 59, taught French at Goucher College, north of Baltimore, until he was suspended with pay after the liberal arts school learned in December that he was wanted in Rwanda. Munyakazi has denied the accusations.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials are taking steps to deport Munyakazi, who was arrested Tuesday at his home in Towson for overstaying his visa, according to agency spokesman Brandon A. Montgomery. Munyakazi was later released from custody but with a monitoring device.
The arrest came a day after the allegations against the professor became public, but Montgomery said the news reports weren't a factor.
"We don't rush to get something done just because of the news," he said.
The genocide accusations stem from 1994, when more than a half-million Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed in Rwanda after the then-president's plane was shot down as he returned from negotiating with Tutsi rebels. Munyakazi is Hutu.
"I think they did it under the pressure of the Rwandan government," Munyakazi said Thursday of his arrest. "They would like to show them that they are doing something about the allegations."
Andrew Tusabe, second counselor at the Rwandan embassy in Washington, called the arrest a positive step.
"We appreciate the development and ask authorities to send him to Rwanda where he will face justice," Tusabe said.
Munyakazi is charged with murder and several genocide-related counts, according to a copy of an indictment provided by Munyakazi. Goucher officials said they gave Munyakazi a copy of the indictment, which they received from a Rwandan prosecutor.
Alison Des Forges, senior adviser to Human Rights Watch's Africa division, reviewed the indictment and said it contained details that do not "fit historical facts of the time." For instance, it is unlikely that Munyakazi organized a militia associated with a party that was opposed to the party he was affiliated with, Des Forges said.
Goucher suspended Munyakazi because the allegations are so serious, college President Sanford Ungar said earlier in the week, adding the removal wasn't a judgment of the professor or the charges.
The school referred questions on Thursday about the arrest to the organization that provided Munyakazi's fellowship. A spokeswoman for the organization did not respond to a question about the arrest sent to her in an e-mail.