Suspect No. 41 Explains Role during Mass Slaughter

Article excerpt

Three years ago, Froduald Karamira cruised this city in a Mercedes, cut deals in New York, and helped lead the hard-line faction of one of Rwanda's main political parties.

Now he sits behind an orange iron door, cross-legged and straight-backed on a striped towel, listening to the rumble of thousands of voices - Hutu inmates packed into the teeming Kigali Central Prison, awaiting genocide trials.

The top suspect in custody, Mr. Karamira is isolated from the rest of the inmates. He was not allowed to meet with journalists - until a prison official agreed to lock one in his cell with him for two hours on a recent afternoon. Karamira welcomed the company. At times turning philosophical and quoting human rights laws, he denied involvement in the genocide, tried to explain why he was a well-known voice on extremist Hutu radio during the genocide, and spoke of his extradition back to Rwanda. He spent six weeks in an Ethiopian prison while Rwanda and the United Nations war crimes tribunal in Arusha, Tanzania, battled for the right to try him. Rwanda won, a top official says, after it said it would not guarantee the safety of the international investigators if the tribunal didn't give up their claim to Karamira. Karamira is No. 41 on a list of 1,946 suspects the Tutsi government hopes to try in court and execute. The list includes most of Rwanda's old Hutu leaders. "This is against the spirit of the penal code," he says. "They should charge you for what you have done, not for who you are. For me, it is nonsense." His cell is impeccably clean. Flip-flops and two copies of the Bible, the only book he is allowed to read, are lined up next to a water pitcher. He sleeps on two neatly folded blankets. Karamira describes himself as more of a businessman than a politician. He made a late entry into official politics, starting out in opposition to the Hutu leaders who planned the genocide. When an army of Tutsi refugees invaded from neighboring Uganda in 1990, he was imprisoned for six months as a rebel sympathizer. …