CEDAR RAPIDS — A Homeland Security agent testified Thursday that several witnesses identified Gervais “Ken” Ngombwa as a member of the extremist political party that participated in the Rwanda genocide.
Almost 1 million Rwandans were killed in the 1994 atrocities.
Special Agent Frank Hunter, testifying during the first day of sentencing in Ngombwa’s immigration fraud conviction, said the witnesses interviewed in Rwanda named Ngombwa as a member of the MDR-Power. The Hutu extremist group has been blamed for inciting and encouraging the attacks and participating in killings during the genocide.
Witnesses accounts were verified and corroborated by other witnesses, Hunter said.
Many witnesses also identified Ngombwa through photo lineups, Hunter said.
A jury in January convicted Ngombwa, 56, of Cedar Rapids, of unlawfully procuring or attempting to procure naturalization or citizenship, procuring citizenship to which he was not entitled, conspiracy to unlawfully procure citizenship, and lying to agents of the Department of Homeland Security.
Evidence in January’s trial showed Ngombwa lied to authorities about family relationships in attempt to get his application approved for relocation after the genocide and later to obtain citizenship, according to trial testimony.
Ngombwa faces up to 20 years in federal prison. In May, a judge revoked his U.S. citizenship and canceled the naturalization certificate he had obtained in November 2004. The prosecution is asking U.S. District Chief Judge Linda Reade to increase Ngombwa’s prison time based on his participation in the genocide.
The defense disputes Ngombwa’s participation in the MDR-Power and the genocide.
Hunter also testified about Ngombwa’s convictions in Rwandan gacaca or community courts. He was sentenced to 30 years on one charge and life in prison in another, both for crimes of genocide. Ngombwa and his wife and children fled the country after the genocide in 1994 and were relocated in refugee camps.
Ngombwa also was listed as a co-conspiractor in an indictment for his half-brother, who was convicted by a military court for genocide and is serving a life prison. Hunter also collected the transcript from the brother’s trial, and he named Ngombwa as being an MDR-Power member.
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Ray Scheetz, Ngombwa’s lawyer, tried to discredit one of the witnesses Hunter named because she would have been 11 years old during the genocide.
Hunter said he didn’t rely solely on her statements. He verified other statements she made about political parties and Ngombwa being part of MDR. Hunter said he did believe her personal accounts of seeing her mother die and seeing Ngombwa kick a newborn baby over to a dog, which then attacked the infant.
Hunter said he also didn’t rely on the girl because the Rwandan government sent her to him. He knew the Rwandan government sought retribution for the genocide, so he looked for witnesses beyond ones the government might provide.
Leopold Nsengiyumva, a former defense investigator for the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, testifying for the defense said the gacaca courts, which prosecuted those accused of crimes of genocide and don’t exist today, were corrupt because defendants have no right to a lawyer and the judges were not trained or lawyers themselves. They are community members and some were illiterate.
He also said the prosecution manipulated witness testimony and pressured them to snitch on others.
Nsengiyumva on cross examination admitted he hadn’t attended gacaca proceedings but considered himself an expert on the courts.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Ravi Naryan asked him about some articles he wrote and pointed out Nsengiyumva said the same thing about the criminal tribunal.
Nsengiyumva admitted that he assisted in the defense team for those charged with genocide.
Naryan asked if he was a “genocide denier” like John Philpot, who is well known for that opinion, and a man Nsengiyumva considered a mentor and named as a reference on his resume. Nsengiyumva said he believes the Hutu didn’t plan the genocide and believed the gacaca courts should have also prosecuted the Tutsi people.
The sentencing continues 9 a.m. Friday. Reade said she won’t not make a ruling but instead take it under advisement and set another hearing.