Rwandan Priest Accused of Genocide Says He is Innocent

ARUSHA, Tanzania, FEB. 10, 2002 ( Father Athanase Seromba, accused in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, appeared voluntarily before the U.N. International Court here Friday and declared himself innocent.

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Father Seromba, who gave himself up to authorities, appeared before judge Navanethem Pillay. The priest had been working in the Archdiocese of Florence in Italy for the past four years.

The priest is accused of genocide, complicity in genocide, conspiring to organize the genocide, and crimes against humanity.

Authorities claim that thousands of Tutsis who lived in the Kiwumu region sought refuge in Father Seromba´s parish in Nyange, on April 6, 1994. Instead of helping them, the Hutu priest contributed to the extermination of 2,000 Tutsis, authorities say.

Father Seromba has consistently denied the accusation, made by an organization for the defense of human rights, which many believe is close to the Rwandan regime.

The church in which the Tutsis sought refuge was set on fire. The court has already sentenced eight individuals, among them former Rwandan Prime Minister Kambanda.

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