Monday, August 29, 2011

U.S. wastes $1 million+ trying to deport innocent 84-yr.-old to Rwanda

KPFA Weekend News, 08.27.2011

Lazara Kabogaya with his defense lawyers Kurt Kerns,
left, and Melanie Morgan, right.
KPFA Weekend News Anchor Cameron Jones: The outcome of a federal immigration trial decided this week in Wichita Kansas has international implications, particularly for U.S. foreign policy in Africa. Eighty-four-year-old Burundian immigrant Lazare Kabogaya, an ethnic Hutu, was charged with stating that he was in Burundi rather than Rwanda in 1994 on his visa application, and, with involvement in the 1994 Rwanda Genocide.

A jury concluded that he was not guilty of genocide crime and this week all charges were dismissed after it was revealed that federal prosecutors had failed to disclose a material witness - an immigration official who stated that she would not have disapproved Kabogaya's application if it had said that he was in Rwanda in 1994. KPFA's Ann Garrison spoke to Kurt Kerns, one of two Wichita criminal defense attorneys who defended Kabogaya and this week celebrated his acquittal on all counts.

KPFA/Ann Garrison: ​So, federal prosecutors spent between one and two million dollars, and two and a half years on this case, and failed to disclose a material witness whose testimony ultimately decided the case?

Kurt Kerns: Pretty much. Yeah, that's a good way to summarize it.

KPFA: Could you tell me exactly what Lazare Kabogaya was charged with?

Kurt Kerns: Well, he was basically charged with two counts of immigration crimes, the first being premised upon an argument that he had committed the crime of genocide in Rwanda, and, did not disclose that on his American immigration forms. And then, on the second one, it was a visa fraud count, where the government alleged that he had misrepresented information on his visa about where he lived in 1994. So, they were American immigration crimes, the first of which was premised on the crime of genocide, which made this case the first time that the crime of genocide had ever been tried and argued on American soil.

KPFA:  And was he charged with the immigration crime, that is falsifying information on his visa, before he testified in behalf of a Rwandan on trial for genocide crime in Finland?

Kurt Kerns:  No, he wasn't accused really of anything until he agreed to do an interview with a defense lawyer from Finland who had been defending a Rwandan that was on trial, again for genocide, but this time in Finland.

KPFA: ​What do you think the international implications of this case are?

Victoire Ingabire remains in maximum security
prison in Rwanda.
Kurt Kerns: Well, I think maybe before you spend a couple of million dollars trying to prosecute someone, you really need to do a factual investigation. If the allegations are coming out of a country that has so many lies being perpetrated out of it, like Rwanda, you really need to do an independent investigation to see if you're really getting a true and accurate investigation or if you're really just getting a politically motivated accusation. So often now, at least right now in Rwanda, so many of the accusations coming out of that country are sadly, politically based.

KPFA: That was Wichita lawyer Kurt Kerns on his successful defense of Burundian immigrant Lazare Kabogaya. Last year Kerns traveled to Rwanda to defend William Mitchell Law Professor and former International Criminal Tribunal on Rwanda defense attorney Peter Erlinder who had been arrested after traveling to Rwanda to defend opposition leader Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza.  Ingabire remains in maximum security prison in Rwanda, charged, as Erlinder was, with genocide ideology, which means, disagreeing with the official history of the Rwanda Genocide.

The argument that the U.S. must intervene in Africa, to stop the next Rwanda, is now central to U.S. foreign policy.

For Pacifica, KPFA and AfrobeatRadio, I'm Ann Garrison.

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