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Rwandan Court Denies Bishop Bail

April 20, 1999

KIGALI, Rwanda (AP) _ A Rwandan court Tuesday denied bail for a Roman Catholic bishop whose arrest last week on genocide charges has upset ties with the Vatican and the country’s Catholic clergy.

The 56-year-old Augustin Misago was ordered to remain in the Kigali Central Prison for two months, until an investigation is completed into his alleged participation in the 1994 genocide of more than 500,000 minority Tutsis and politically moderate Hutus.

Misago’s arrest on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity provoked protests from the Vatican and Rwanda’s eight other bishops, who led services on Sunday to pray for Misago.

Tutsi genocide survivors say Misago refused them shelter from Hutu death squads who shot or hacked to death hundreds of thousands of people in Gikongoro, where Misago headed the diocese. Gikongoro is 60 miles southwest of Kigali.

Misago, dressed in a standard, prison pink uniform and wearing a metal cross on his chest, made his first appearance before a two-judge panel on Tuesday to request a temporary release on health grounds.

The judges denied bail, saying he could not prove his illness and the charges against him were sufficient to keep him in prison until his case is completed.

Misago was not asked to enter a plea. But he has claimed he is innocent and complained of an orchestrated campaign against him led by President Pasteur Bizimungu.

At an April 7 genocide memorial, Bizimungu threatened to take action against Misago unless the church admitted culpability.

He was arrested less than a week later, reportedly while plotting his escape from the country.

Misago is the highest-ranking church official to be arrested on genocide charges. So far, 19 Rwandan priests are among the 125,000 people in Rwanda’s jails on suspicion of aiding the killings.

More than 1,000 suspects have so far been tried.

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