KIGALI, Rwanda (AP) — Hundreds of people demonstrated outside the British diplomatic mission in Rwanda on Wednesday, saying they will not return home until a general detained in the UK is set free.
The detention in London of Lt. Gen. Emmanuel Karenzi Karake, who serves as Rwanda’s spy chief, has prompted an angry response from Rwanda’s government, which says the charges against Karake are politically motivated.
Karake, a close ally of Rwandan President Paul Kagame, was one of 40 members of the Rwandan military indicted in 2008 on charges of terrorism and genocide by Spanish National Court Judge Fernando Andreu.
Gen. Karake allegedly oversaw the mass killings of Hutus in revenge for their genocide against Rwanda’s Tutsi people and was also behind the killing of eight Spanish humanitarian workers.
Spanish magistrates have used the principle of universal jurisdiction several times to go after current or former government leaders or terrorism suspects, but extraditions and convictions have been rare.
“We are here to stand in solidarity with our hero, who was among the people who stopped genocide in this country,” said Herbert Muhire, a protest leader. “We will not stop until he is released.”
The British High Commissioner to Rwanda, William Gelling, briefly addressed the protesters before quickly returning to the highly guarded facility.
“First of all I thank you for your message. I understand what you said and I understand your frustration,” Gelling said. “All I can say is that this was a legal decision as you understand, on behalf of the Spanish legal authorities. The UK is a very close partner with Rwanda.”
Karake, who had reportedly travelled to the London on official duty, was arrested Saturday, had a brief hearing at Westminster Magistrates’ Court that day and will be back in court on Thursday.