Former Goucher College professor held in Kigali prison awaiting trial

Leopold Munyakazi, briefly taught at Goucher College and was deported to Rwanda under international charges of genocide.
Leopold Munyakazi, briefly taught at Goucher College and was deported to Rwanda under international charges of genocide. (GENE SWEENEY JR / Baltimore Sun)

A linguist who taught French at Goucher College remains detained on charges of genocide at Kigali Central Prison in his native Rwanda, a spokesman for Rwandan prosecutors said.

Rwandan authorities had previously provided few details about the status of Leopold Munyakazi, who was deported from the United States in late September. The 67-year-old, who taught one semester at Goucher in 2008, stands accused of stoking ethnic violence during the Rwandan genocide of 1994.


Until recently, his attorney in Northern Virginia and former colleagues at Goucher were unsure where he was being held and whether he had a lawyer in Rwanda. They worried he would not receive a fair trial.

A spokesman for Rwandan prosecutors said Munyakazi appeared in court last month for a judge to consider his pretrial detention.


Nkusi Faustin, a spokesman for the national prosecutor's international crimes unit, said the judge ordered Munyakazi be placed in provisional detention at Kigali Central Prison in the Rwandan capital.

Munyakazi appealed, Faustin said, but the order was upheld. Prosecutors requested an extension to his provisional detention, which was granted Nov. 16.

Prosecutors continue to investigate and build their case.

Faustin said Munyakazi has his own lawyers. He did not provide a trial date.

Former Goucher President Sanford Unger said he has concerns about Munyakazi "getting a fair trial."

"It was a long time ago," Unger said, "and the indictment was always a little bit sketchy."

The events that led to Munyakazi's deportation began 22 years ago in Rwanda, when extremist Hutus killed between 750,000 and 1 million Tutsis during a 100-day massacre, according to U.S. State Department estimates. Nearly three-quarters of the Tutsi population was killed.

Munyakazi, a Hutu scholar with a Tutsi wife, is accused of inciting violence at a rally at a soccer stadium.

U.S. agents investigated the charges during three weeks in Rwanda in 2009. Witnesses told them Munyakazi led a band of Hutus to find and kill an educated Tutsi, and he orchestrated night raids on Tutsi homes.

Ofelia Calderon, Munyakazi's attorney in Northern Virginia, has said the witnesses were planted by the Rwandan government.

Munyakazi flew to the United States for a conference on French literature in July 2004 and applied for asylum with his family.

He was teaching French at Montclair State University in New Jersey in October 2006 when he gave an explosive talk in Delaware challenging the notion that the mass killings constituted a genocide.


It was fratricide, he said: brother against brother.

One month after his talk, Rwandan authorities issued an international arrest warrant charging Munyakazi with genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide and negation of genocide.

He continued teaching, and arrived at Goucher College in the fall of 2008 through the Scholar Rescue Fund, which places persecuted teachers at universities. Munyakazi and his family moved into a college-owned house in Towson.

U.S. immigration officials began deportation proceedings against Munyakazi because he had overstayed his visa. He continued to request asylum.

His legal fight to remain in the United States consumed nearly eight years. He challenged the deportation proceedings and appealed in federal court.

On Sept. 28, Munyakazi was flown to Kigali and turned over to Rwandan authorities.

His family has been granted asylum. Munyakazi's wife, who works at a nursing home, has declined to discuss the case against her husband.

A State Department spokesman has said the United States expects Rwandan authorities to ensure Munyakazi's human rights are protected while he awaits trial.

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