Jury: NH woman lied about role in Rwanda genocide

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Associated Press

Posted on February 21, 2013 at 2:33 PM

Updated Thursday, Feb 21 at 2:37 PM

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — Jurors on Thursday convicted a woman of lying to obtain U.S. citizenship by denying her role in the 1994 Rwanda genocide.

Upon hearing the verdict, which came nearly a year after another jury failed to reach one, Beatrice Munyenyezi put her head down on a courtroom table and started weeping. She had been allowed to live in her Manchester home with her family as she waited for her second trial.

U.S. District Judge Steven McAuliffe stripped her of her citizenship and ordered her detained until her sentencing, scheduled for June 3. Her lawyers said they will appeal.

Munyenyezi, 43, was not on trial for genocide or other war crimes. She was charged with two counts of lying on U.S. government applications to enter the country and obtain citizenship.

The first count alleged she denied any role in the genocide or affiliation with any political party at the time. The second count alleged she was not eligible for citizenship because she entered the country unlawfully by making the same false statements on her refugee and green card applications. The jury deliberated for less than five hours before reaching its verdict.

In the second trial, prosecutors called upon new witnesses who placed Munyenyezi at a checkpoint where Tutsis were identified and ordered killed.

Prosecutor John Capin said Munyenyezi, of Manchester, lied on applications to enter the U.S. as a refugee in 1995 and to obtain citizenship in 2003. He said she had "a front-row seat" to the slaughter.

Defense Attorney Mark Howard said Munyenyezi walked out of the same federal courthouse 10 years ago as a U.S. citizen and should leave the trial as an innocent American citizen.

He assailed the credibility of prosecution witnesses who only last year implicated her for the first time in the genocide.

In the first trial that ended last March, McAuliffe declared a mistrial. Jurors said they couldn't agree on the two counts against Munyenyezi after nearly 19 hours of deliberations over several days.

Prosecutors said Munyenyezi was an extremist Hutu who killed and ordered the rapes of untold Tutsi victims — not the innocent refugee she claimed to be in 1995, when she applied for a visa and later when she applied for and obtained citizenship in 2003.

To prove Munyenyezi lied on her immigration and naturalization papers, prosecutors had to convince the jury she took an active part in the genocide, contrary to sworn statements on the federal forms. The only other similar trial in the U.S. involving immigration fraud related to the Rwanda genocide ended in a hung jury last May in Kansas.

Prosecution witnesses testified they saw her direct rapes and killings, but her relatives testified they never saw that, nor did they see her carry a gun or wear a military uniform. They said Munyenyezi, who was pregnant with twins at the time, mostly stayed inside the family-owned hotel that prosecutors said was the scene of the some of the brutality.

Defense argued to jurors that she was the victim of lies by Rwandan witnesses who never before implicated her through nearly two decades of investigations and international trials, even when testifying against her husband and mother-in-law at a war crimes tribunal in Tanzania.

Munyenyezi brought her three daughters to the United States in 1998 and focused on providing a life and home for them. Before long, she had a $13-an-hour job at Manchester's Housing Authority, her children were enrolled in Catholic school, and she was on her way to financing a comfortable American lifestyle through mortgages, loans and credit cards. However, she filed for bankruptcy protection in 2008, and had about $400,000 in debt discharged.

A federal affidavit says Munyenyezi's husband, Arsene Shalom Ntahobali, also participated in roadblocks and ID checks that resulted in rapes and killings. Ntahobali and his mother, Pauline Nyiramasuhuko, were prominent defendants in the United Nation's international crimes tribunal on Rwanda, both charged with genocide and crimes against humanity. They were sentenced to life in prison last June. Ntahobali also was convicted of rape.

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