Police investigate death of Rwandan genocide suspect found in Belgian canal

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Belgian police are investigating the death of a former Rwandan minister accused of genocide, whosebody was found in a canal.

Juvenal Uwilingiyimana, who fled to Belgium in 1998, was indicted in June for his alleged involvement in the massacre of 4,200 Rwandans during the civil war in 1994.

The former trade minister, who denied the charge, had been cooperating with the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) but had expressed concerns about his safety when Belgium's large Rwandan community found out about his contacts with the court. Because of the state in which Mr Uwilingiyimana's body was recovered, police have not yet identified the cause of death. Some injuries to the body are though to have been inflicted post-mortem by propellers.

Wim de Troy, spokesman for the Brussels prosecutor's office, told RTL-TVI television: "All we can say for now is that the cause of death remains unclear."

In a statement, the ICTR prosecutor said: "If the cause of death is determined to be homicide, the Office of the Prosecutor expresses the fervent hope that Belgian authorities will be able to arrest and try those responsible." The ICTR said Mr Uwilingiyimana had met its investigators in recent weeks under an arrangement by which indictees can receive lesser sentences in return for information about the genocide.

"He expressed concern about the dangers he would face from the Rwandan community when he told the truth about these persons' responsibility for the Rwanda genocide," the ICTR said.

The Belgian newspaper, Le Soir, quoted a letter said to have been written by Mr Uwilingiyimana on 5 November in which it is claimed that he ended his co-operation with the tribunal. The letter read: "I cannot lie for the amusement of investigators and I am ready to accept all the consequences: my corpse will be trampled in the street."