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Rwanda Genocide Roles Support U.S. Convictions

(CN) - Two sisters who lied about their involvement with the 1994 genocide in Rwanda defrauded their way into the United States, the 1st Circuit ruled.

Over a 100-day period in 1984, the majority Hutu ethnic group slaughtered thousands of their countrymen, the minority Tutsis.

Many of the Tutsis ran into roadblocks as they tried to escape their machete-wielding attackers.

One of these roadblocks was set up outside the Hotel Ihuriro in the city of Butare.

Beatrice Munyenyezi's husband managed the hotel, owned by his mother, and he led the Interahamwe militia of the then-ruling party, the National Republican Movement for Democracy and Development or MRND.

Pregnant with twin girls, Munyenyezi "kicked off the killing frenzy there by telling the party's devotees that all Tutsi 'cockroaches' must die," according to a March 25 ruling against her from the Boston-based federal appeals court.

In the closing days of the massacre, Munyenyezi fled to Kenya before emigrating to the United States. She denied any involvement in the genocide on her entrance papers, and she moved to America in 1998.

Munyenyezi continued to disavow her involvement in the genocide when she applied to become a permanent resident in 2001 and a U.S. citizen in 2003.

When her husband went on trial in 2006 for his role in the killings, Munyenyezi took the stand on his behalf, denied seeing a roadblock near the family's hotel, denied her husband's involvement, and denied seeing dead bodies in Butare.

Federal prosecutors then indicted Munyenyezi in 2010 on two counts of procuring citizenship illegally by making false statements to the government. She was convicted in New Hampshire and sentenced to 10 years in prison.

In affirming that conviction Wednesday, the 1st Circuit called the prosecution's case a "bone-chilling read."

One witness recalled Munyenyezi with a notebook at the roadblock.

"She was counting," he said, "registering dead Tutsis and others who were not yet dead."

Another witness recalled Munyenyezi ordering the deaths of several Tutsis at the roadblock.

Munyenyezi failed to persuade the court that the witnesses were lying or that she was simply present at the roadblock but did not participate in the massacre.

"Far from it - dressed as an Interahamwe, she personally inspected IDs at the checkpoint, separated those who would live from those who would die (and die gruesomely), and kept records of the ghastly goings-on," Judge O. Rogeriee Thompson wrote for a three-person panel.

Finding the sentence length also appropriate, the panel noted that the trial judge had "explicitly" cited Munyenyezi's lying, not her participation in the massacre.

The same panel also upheld on Wednesday the conviction in Massachusetts of Munyenyezi's sister, Prudence Kantengwa, for lying on her application for asylum and in removal proceedings.

Kantengwa and her children stayed at the Hotel Ihuriro for six weeks during the genocide, according to the ruling. Her husband held a senior position in one of the organizations that carried out the killings.

She denied this fact on her questionnaire to obtain a visa. She also falsely stated that she had never been a member of the MRND.

In claiming on appeal that her false statements were not material, Kantengewa said that they were relevant to the ban on immigrants who persecute others.

But the 1st Circuit said "a jury could easily find that lying about having committed visa fraud, where the purpose of that fraud was to conceal these 'red flags,' was material to the persecutor bar."

Chief Judge Sandra Lynch wrote this opinion, emphasizing that "there is no evidence that Kantengwa participated in the genocide, only that she socialized and sympathized with those who did, and then sought to distance herself from it by lying."

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