By Nate Raymond
BOSTON (Reuters) – A Rwandan man who U.S. prosecutors said participated in the African nation’s 1994 genocide was convicted on Friday of lying about belonging to the political party that led the killings in hopes of gaining asylum in the United States.
A federal jury in Boston following less three hours of deliberations found Jean Leonard Teganya, 48, guilty of five counts of immigration fraud and perjury in connection with his application for U.S. asylum.
The four-week trial featured testimony by Rwandans who lived through the genocide, in which members of a hard-line Hutu regime massacred an estimated 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus during three months of slaughter.
Teganya denied the allegations. His lawyer, Scott Lauer, argued at trial that Teganya did nothing wrong and fled Rwanda because after the genocide any Hutu could be implicated in it.
“Mr. Teganya is a good man whose only crime was being a Hutu at the time of the genocide,” he told jurors in his opening statement.
After the verdict, Lauer said he was “deeply disappointed.” Teganya is scheduled to be sentenced on July 1.
Prosecutors said at the time of the violence, Teganya was a medical student at a hospital in the southern Rwandan city of Butare and was active in the political party that helped perpetrate the genocide.
The genocide, carried out by Hutus from the ruling MRND party, followed the shooting down by unknown gunmen of a plane carrying the then-presidents of Rwanda and neighbouring Burundi.
Prosecutors, citing witnesses, alleged that during the course of the genocide, Teganya led Hutu soldiers through the hospital to identify Tutsi patients who were then killed. He also personally participated in the killing and raping of Tutsis, prosecutors said.
He left Rwanda in mid-July 1994 and travelled through Congo, Kenya and India before arriving in Canada in 1999, prosecutors said.
He sought asylum in Canada, but officials concluded he took part in atrocities against Tutsis and, following years of litigation, ultimately ordered his removal from the country, prosecutors said.
They said he then fled in 2014 and crossed into the United States, entering through Houlton, Maine, where he encountered U.S. Customs and Border Control officers and requested asylum.
He subsequently disclosed that his father had been a senior local leader of the MRND, but did not reveal that he too was a member or his activities during the genocide, prosecutors said.
(Reporting by Nate Raymond in Boston; Editing by James Dalgleish)