NEWS

Leon Mugesera ordered to remain at Montreal-area detention centre

01/16/2012 01:43 EST | Updated 03/17/2012 05:12 EDT
MONTREAL - A Rwandan man who is facing charges of inciting genocide and crimes against humanity will remain detained pending a court decision on his deportation.

Leon Mugesera will return before an immigration board in a week's time if he is still in Canada, commissioner Dianne Tordorf ruled after an hour-long hearing in Montreal on Monday.

Tordorf described Mugesera as a flight risk who couldn't be trusted, given his hospitalization last week just a day before he was scheduled to be deported.

For now, Mugesera will remain at a detention centre near Montreal as lawyers seek to keep him in Canada while a UN committee looks into allegations he could be tortured if he is deported to Rwanda.

Those arguments will be heard this Friday in Quebec Superior Court.

Mugesera appeared fit and healthy as he appeared before the board for the detention review, waving to his wife and some of his children in the audience room.

On his lawyer's advice, Mugesera didn't testify at the hearing or answer Canada Border Services Agency questions about his health. That drew a warning from Tordorf that it wouldn't help him in her ruling.

"The law obliges Mr. Mugesera to answer my questions under risk of penalty," Tordorf said.

"If he doesn't respond, I can infer negative things concerning his case."

His lawyers argued the government's case against Mugesera was largely hearsay and that he should be freed.

Lawyer Mai Nguyen said Mugesera has never skipped a meeting with border officials. As for his hospitalization, all she would say was that people are hospitalized all the time for different reasons.

"There isn't any evidence that my client deliberately acted to stop his deportation," Nguyen said.

A representative of the Canada Border Services Agency, relying on media reports, said Mugesera had overdosed on pills at his Quebec City home.

Mugesera, who has lived in Canada for nearly 20 years, spent three days in a hospital before his release on Saturday and his subsequent detention.

The alleged overdose shows just how far he's willing to go to remain in Canada, the agency said.

"For the moment I submit that Mr. Mugesera is facing an imminent deportation order," Roberto Godoy, a representative of the CBSA, told the hearing.

"Mr. Mugesera presents a serious flight risk and that's based on his reaction to a Federal Court ruling (last week) that there would be no stay."

While he was in hospital, lawyers were successful in delaying his deportation with a motion filed in Quebec Superior Court.

Godoy said the government is prepared to abide by whatever the Superior Court rules.

If the ruling is in Ottawa's favour, Mugesera could be deported at the earliest opportunity.

If that happens, Mugesera is expected to face criminal charges in the African country related to the 1994 killing of between 800,000 and one million Rwandans.

A university professor and one-time Rwandan political operative, Mugesera gave a virulent, anti-Tutsi speech in 1992.

Two years later, Hutu-backed militias later carried out a 100-day massacre of Tutsis and Hutu moderates, with the speech being rebroadcast during the bloody period.

Mugesera's lawyers argue the Quebec City resident could face torture back home.

They have asked the United Nations Committee Against Torture to look at Mugesera's claim. That body has asked Canada to hold off on the deportation.

A lawyer is accusing the Canadian government of ignoring its international commitments by trying to proceed with Mugesera's deportation before the UN committee can examine his case.

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