Suspects of Bwindi tourists massacre seek US asylum


Three rebels of the Liberation Army of Rwanda accused of killing gorilla tracking tourists in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in 1999 have applied for asylum in the United States.

According to a report published in the Washington Times over the weekend, Mr Francois Karake, Mr Gregoire Nyaminani and Mr Leonidas Bimenyimana whose cases were dropped by the US government prosecutors in August 2006 want to remain in the US fearing that the law back home might not necessarily be friendly to the crimes they committed.

The three rebels who in 2003 confessed to brutally killing two American tourists on vacation in Bwindi in 1999, were since their confession transferred to the US to stand trial.

They had been indicted a week earlier by a federal grand jury in Washington D.C on charges of murder and conspiracy in the killings of Americans, Robert Haubner and his wife Susan Miller in Bwindi.
Bwindi is a remote, rain-forest area in the extreme southwest Uganda near the borders of the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda.
The three were also among the 10 men named as suspects and returned from Uganda to Rwanda after the killings.

According to the Rwanda News Agency (RNA) they were handed over by the Ugandan government to Rwanda’s chief of external security Joseph Nzabamwita in Kibale in western Uganda and later detained at the Remera Military Barracks in the Rwandan capital, Kigali.

The forth suspect Jean Paul Bizimana, was sentenced in January 2006 in Uganda to 15-years in jail for the murders.According to Washington Times, the trio’s “fear of persecution” is outlined in a memo to US Judge Ellen S. Huvelle filed by defense attorneys, who disclosed the asylum applications.

The same judge is said to be the one who dismissed the case against the three ruling that evidence comprising testimonies from the men were obtained after they had been tortured while imprisoned in Kigali.

While dismissing the case in 2006 Judge Huvelle’s 150-page ruling said the confessions were “extracted” after repeated questioning, lengthy periods of solitary confinement, torture and other physical abuse, adding that US prosecutors could refile the charges only if they obtained additional evidence.

Officials in Rwanda are yet to comment about the rebels’ asylum applications. According to the US daily the memo said, “This will assure that once charges are dismissed, the defendants will not be at risk for being taken from the country without the opportunity to address their fear of persecution, which would await them when they return.”

The indictment read in 2003 that 15 tourists were kidnapped in Bwindi and forced to march into the jungle, where with six other tourists including four British citizens and two New Zealanders, were savagely beaten and hacked to death with axes and machetes.

The records also show that two of the victims were found with handwritten notes which read, “This is the punishment of the Anglo-Saxon who sold us. You protect the minority and oppress the majority.”