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Quebec church caroller wanted for genocide

Leon Mugesera is accused of inspiring mass murder, but on many Sundays the man who is No. 44 on Interpol's list of fugitives from the Rwandan genocide sings songs of divine inspiration in Quebec's cathedrals.

Mr. Mugesera is a leader of a choral group Magnificat, a touring choir of about a dozen Rwandan immigrants who perform soul-elevating hymns at Sunday masses in Quebec.

The regular appearances among the Catholic devout grate on members of Quebec's Tutsi community who have watched Mr. Mugesera's 14-year refuge from justice in Canada.

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Mr. Mugesera is accused of whipping up a genocidal frenzy against Tutsis in Rwanda with a speech in 1992, just before he fled to Canada.

Long-time observers of the case say that ever since, friends in high Canadian places, including clergy, academics and government officials, have helped shield him from Rwandan justice.

Joachim Mutezintare, a genocide survivor who lives in Quebec City, sat in stunned silence in church on a recent Sunday as he listened to Mr. Mugesera's devotionals. Mr. Mutezintare says it's another attempt by Mr. Mugesera to entrench himself in the Quebec establishment.

"This is what really shocks me,"' Mr. Mutezintare said in a recent interview. "For years now, he has used these institutions to protect himself, and here he goes, using the church once again."

Mr. Mugesera is awaiting deportation while the federal government evaluates the danger he would face in his native Rwanda. His removal was upheld nearly two years ago by the Supreme Court of Canada after it found he helped incite Rwanda's massacres.

Born in 1952, Mr. Mugesera studied under Canadian missionaries in Rwanda in the 1970s and with leading Quebec academics at Laval University in Quebec City in the 1980s. He completed internships with the Canadian and Quebec governments around that time.

He has used those connections repeatedly - to gain refuge in Canada in 1993 and again in his fight to avoid deportation. A decade of court files are filled with glowing references from academics and government officials, including his initial application to come to Canada.

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Those connections still protect him in subtle ways, said William Schabas, a Canadian human-rights expert now with the Irish Centre for Human Rights. Mr. Schabas documented the threat of genocide, and Mr. Mugesera's key role in it, in early 1993 - some 15 months before Hutu extremists backed by the government massacred hundreds of thousands of Rwandan Tutsis and Hutu moderates.

"When Mugesera came to Canada, he was sheltered by a network of people who shared a sympathetic view of the old [Hutu]Rwandan government," Mr. Schabas said in an interview.

Mr. Mugesera, the best-known of five people believed to be residents of Canada on Interpol's wanted list from the Rwandan genocide, has spent a dozen years fighting deportation. His case has underlined the misery Canada has dealing with alleged war criminals.

Mr. Mugesera's Quebec City lawyer, Guy Bertrand, says his client lives in poverty and suffers constant harassment from his detractors. Mr. Mugesera often gets calls in the night accusing him of murder, Mr. Bertrand says.

Mr. Mugesera no longer gets much work from Laval University, where professors once slipped him academic jobs. He declined to be interviewed for this story. In 1992, Mr. Mugesera was an adviser to the Rwandan Hutu ruling regime. Two years before the Rwandan genocide, the Hutu government was fighting a civil war launched from Uganda by Tutsi rebels.

Some 2,000 Tutsi civilians had already died in massacres that started in 1990.

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In this heated atmosphere, Mr. Mugesera gave a speech on Nov. 22, 1992, exhorting Hutus to fight back against their Tutsi aggressors. He suggested the Tutsis were cockroaches, saying "We must do something ourselves to exterminate this rabble."

Mr. Mugesera said Hutus made a mistake in 1959, when hundreds of thousands of Tutsis fled the country during a Hutu-led revolt.

"The mistake we made in 1959 ... is to let you leave," he said.

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