CONCORD, N.H. – Lawyers for a Manchester woman charged with lying about her role in the 1994 Rwanda genocide argued Monday she will not flee if she is released from custody while awaiting trial next year.
Beatrice Munyenyezi, 40, has been in custody since June, when she was indicted for lying on applications to enter the United States in 1995 and to obtain citizenship. Federal prosecutors say she ordered rapes and murders of Tutsis during the genocide that killed up to 800,000 people.
Defense Attorney David Ruoff told a federal magistrate that Munyenyezi has lived "a very quiet and unassuming life" during the 10 years she has lived in Manchester with her three daughters, who are now in their teens. He called her ongoing detention "strictly punitive."
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Auerhahn said Munyenyezi's brother heads an organization that wants to overthrow the current regime in Rwanda, and predicts she would return to Rwanda if that happened.
"Why stay around here and face a potential 10-year sentence," Auerhahn said. Her roots in the community are tenuous at best and suspicious."
Munyenyezi, who was sworn in as a U.S. citizen in Concord in 2003, appeared to be listening intently. She spoke only when U.S. Magistrate Judge Landya McCafferty asked her if she was pronouncing her name correctly.
McCafferty did not indicate when she would issue a decision.
Munyenyezi is married to Arsene Shalom Ntahobali, a commander in the former Rwandan army and one of the "Butare Six," suspected by authorities of planning the slaughter. He and his mother have been on trial before a U.N. tribunal for more than eight years.
Ruoff argued that during that eight-year trial, including the three times Munyenyezi testified on her husband's behalf, she was never linked to genocide or other war crimes.
A federal affidavit says Munyenyezi and her husband were extremist Hutus who participated in roadblocks and ID checks that resulted in numerous Tutsi rapes and killings.
Ruoff also questioned the credibility of the government's Rwandan witnesses, calling them "jailhouse rats" who participated in the genocide.
Prosecutors challenged Ruoff's characterization, saying they have nothing to offer Rwandan convicts who are serving multiple life sentences.
Auerhahn said they fear Munyenyezi will attempt to coerce or threaten their witnesses.
"Some of the witnesses knew her for years and years and years," he said.