Last Friday, Léon Mugesera has been sentenced to life imprisonment in Rwanda for inciting his countrymen to commit genocide.
Mugesera was accused of having delivered a fiery speech in Rwanda in 1992 in which he suggested that members of the Tutsi ethnic group should be exterminated. His speech is considered to have been a trigger for the massacre of 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus in 1994.
Some excerpts from the speech were played repeatedly on Rwandan radio stations, including Radio Mille Collines.
Mugesera was a political adviser to the party of then president Juvenal Habyarimana. He fled Rwanda in 1992 settling with his family in Canada as a refugee and working as a lecturer in linguistics at Laval University.
In 1995, the Canadian government initiated extradition proceedings to send him back to Rwanda, where he was wanted for genocide. Mugesera was extradited in January 2012. His trial began in November 2013 in Kigali.
According to his lawyer, the Canadian government made “a big mistake” in not being more wary of the Rwandan government led by Paul Kagame, claiming that Mugesera did not get a fair trial and was doomed from the start.
“His speech was a very harsh one but it was not an incitement to murder or genocide or hatred,” his lawyer said. He added that Mugesera is a “great democrat” who could have become president of Rwanda.