A Rwandan man was sentenced to more than eight years in prison after being convicted of concealing his involvement in the African nation’s 1994 genocide in hopes of gaining asylum in the United States.
Federal prosecutors in Boston sought 20 years in prison for Jean Leonard Teganya (48) saying if he was being sentenced for the murders and rapes they say he participated in rather than immigration fraud, they would have sought a life term.
US District Judge F. Dennis Saylor did not want to suggest the genocide, in which members of a hard-line Hutu regime massacred an estimated 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus during three months of slaughter, was not “horrifying.”
The judge was not comfortable sentencing Teganya above federal sentencing guidelines for immigration-related crimes he was convicted of to punish him for crimes he could not be charged with in the United States.
“The punishment should fit the offence,” he said.
Teganya is expected to appeal. His lawyer argued Teganya fled Rwanda after the genocide because any Hutu could be implicated.
Prosecutors said during the violence, Teganya was a medical student at a hospital in Butare and was active in the political party that helped perpetrate the genocide.
Citing witnesses, prosecutors alleged Teganya led Hutu soldiers through the hospital to identify Tutsi patients who were then killed and personally participated in the murder of seven Tutsis and five rapes.
He left Rwanda in mid-July 1994 and travelled through Congo, Kenya and India before arriving in Canada in 1999, prosecutors said.
He sought asylum in Canada, but officials concluded he took part in atrocities against Tutsis and, following years of litigation, ultimately ordered his removal from the country, prosecutors said.
They said he then fled in 2014 and crossed into the United States, entering through Houlton, Maine, where he encountered US Customs and Border Control officers and requested asylum.