Rwandan priest pleads not guilty to genocide charges

 A Catholic priest from Rwanda is pleading not guilty to charges of genocide and crimes against humanity at a UN tribunal in the Tanzanian town of Arusha, which began on Friday. Fr Athanase Seromba, 37, who belongs to Rwanda's Hutu majority, allegedly ordered Hutu-extremist militia to kill thousands of Tutsis in his parish church in Nyange. The priest who has been working in the Archdiocese of Florence, Italy, since 1997, surrendered to the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda on Thursday. According to human rights campaigners, the Tutsis took shelter at his church in Rwanda during the 1994 genocide by the Hutu Interahamwe. The court charges said: "The Interahamwe and the militia attacked with traditional arms and poured fuel through the roof of the church, while gendarmes and communal police launched grenades and killed the refugees." After failing to kill all those hiding, Fr Seromba is alleged to have ordered the demolition of the church. The tribunal claims the building was bulldozed, causing its roof to fall in, killing more than 2,000 Tutsis inside. Seromba is then alleged to have ordered the Interahamwe to dump the bodies in a mass grave. More than 500,000 Tutsis and politically moderate Hutus were killed in the 100-day slaughter organised by the Hutu-extremist government. The case continues.

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