Rwanda ex-spy chief Pascal Simbikangwa jailed in France

Undated picture released by Interpol shows Pascal Simbikangwa in 2008 Pascal Simbikangwa lived under an alias on the French Indian Ocean island

A French court has jailed former Rwandan spy chief Pascal Simbikangwa for 25 years over the 1994 genocide.

In a landmark trial, Simbikangwa was found guilty of complicity in genocide and complicity in crimes against humanity.

It was not immediately clear whether his lawyers would appeal.

Simbikangwa, 54, who is paraplegic after a car crash, was arrested in 2008 while living under an alias on the French Indian Ocean island of Mayotte.

He is the first man to be convicted in France in connection with the genocide in Rwanda 20 years ago.

Some 800,000 people - mostly ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus - were killed over a period of about 100 days.

He had denied the charges against him.

Prosecutors had asked for life imprisonment for Simbikangwa, branding him an ethnic "cleanser" who was radically committed to his work and a "man capable of the worst".

Supplying arms

His lawyers said the trial was politically motivated and described witnesses as unreliable and guided by spite.

Simbikangwa, who rose to be third in command in Rwanda's intelligence services, was specifically accused of inciting, organising and aiding massacres, particularly by supplying arms and instructions to Hutu militia who were manning road blocks and killing Tutsi men, women and children.

Simbikangwa served under President Juvenal Habyarimana, an ethnic Hutu whose death in a plane crash in April 1994 triggered the violence.

Simbikangwa was tried under French legislation that allows universal jurisdiction for genocide and other heinous crimes committed by foreigners abroad.

Rwanda's current Tutsi-led government has long accused France - an ally of Mr Habyarimana's then regime - of aiding the genocide.

But in recent years there has been a thaw between the two countries. A new genocide unit within the Paris prosecutor's office also helped to pave the way for the trial.

Of the two dozen or so cases linked to the Rwandan genocide being investigated in France, one involves the widow of President Habyarimana.

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