2 November 2010

Rwanda: Agathe Habyarimana Fights to Stay in France

A French court on Tuesday has overruled a decision denying a residence permit to Agathe Habyarimana, the wife of former Rwandan president Juvenal Habyarimana.

She is struggling to stay in France because the Rwandan authorities accuse her of crimes against humanity.

Habyarimana's lawyer Philippe Meilhac said the court cancelled the decree refusing her a residency permit and asked the prefect to reexamine the case.fled to France in 1994 during the genocide.

"From a judicial legal point of view, Ms Habyarimana's situation is rather complex," he says but he points out that she has been living in France for the past 15 years.

Her husband Juvenal Habyarimana's plane was shot down in Kigali, sparking the Rwandan genocide that killed some 800,000 people, mostly Tutsis and moderate Hutus.

"She's been in France for a very long time," Meilhac told RFI. "Initially French authorities welcomed her. But little by little, because the political climate between France and Rwanda has changed, things have started going badly for her."

Habyarimana was arrested in France last March after a Rwandan prosecutor issued a warrant last year for her to face charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity. She has denied the accusations and is fighting extradition.

Meilhac says that five of her six children live in France, and she has no family back in Rwanda.

"There's a risk of being persecuted if she returns" to Rwanda, he says.

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