HELSINKI – HELSINKI (AP) — A Finnish court sentenced a former Rwandan pastor, Francois Bazaramba, to life imprisonment Friday for committing genocide against the Tutsi minority in his home country in 1994.
The 59-year-old member of the Hutu tribe, who has lived in Finland since 2003, was found guilty of intending to "destroy in whole or part the Rwandan Tutsis as a group," according to the verdict.
The Porvoo District Court said Bazaramba had spread anti-Tutsi propaganda and incited Hutus "to killings through fomenting anger and contempt towards Tutsis."
The 115-page ruling, which was delivered as a written statement, said Bazaramba had forced Tutsis to leave their homes and had ordered Hutus to burn down their homes.
"The court has found Bazaramba guilty of an offense which ... would be judged as murder or incitement to murder," the ruling said. "For those crimes the only possible punishment is life imprisonment."
Bazaramba had denied all the charges. His lawyer, Ville Hoikkala, said Bazaramba would appeal.
"Naturally, it was disappointing that some of the charges were accepted ... but a majority of them were dropped because some of the evidence was obtained through torture," Hoikkala said. "We will take the case to the court of appeals."
The 1994 genocide was carried out by Hutu extremists against the Tutsi minority and Hutu moderates. During 100 days, more than 500,000 people were killed. The court in Porvoo put the death toll at 800,000.
Bazaramba lives in the southern Finnish town of Porvoo, 30 miles (50 kilometers) east of the capital, Helsinki. He has been in police custody since April 2007 while the National Bureau of Investigation conducted an investigation, mostly in Rwanda and neighboring countries.
The trial opened in September 2009 in Porvoo, and several sessions were also held in Rwanda and Tanzania. During the case, the court heard 68 witnesses, mostly in Africa. Rwandan officials also provided evidence, including witness statements.
Last year, Finland declined a request by Rwanda to extradite Bazaramba, saying he might not receive a fair trial in his home country. The Justice Ministry said its decision was based on a ruling by the International Criminal Tribunal, which has prohibited referring similar cases to Rwandan courts.
It was the first genocide trial in Finland and was held here because the Nordic country has signed international agreements to investigate and try cases of genocide, if a suspect is living in Finland or has been apprehended here.
The Justice Ministry said the government had allocated funds in its 2009 and 2010 budgets to cover the cost of the trial, estimated at more than euro1.5 million ($1.8 million).