Former Rwandan police officer Fulgence Kayishema, accused of participating in the 1994 Rwandan genocide, has abandoned his application for bail and applied for political asylum in South Africa, prosecuting authorities and his lawyer said on Tuesday.
Arrested last month under a false name on a grape farm outside Cape Town, Kayishema has been on the run since 2001, when the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) indicted him for genocide. He stands accused of ordering the death of 2,000 people seeking refuge in a church.
He has denied any involvement in violence during the genocide but has said he was “sorry” for the killings.
Kayishema is currently facing 54 charges in South Africa, mainly related to contravening the Immigration Act but including several counts of fraud, and could face additional charges, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) said in a statement.
The NPA said the 62-year-old accused “has abandoned his bail application and will instead launch an asylum application today”.
“My client fears for his life, if and when extradited, hence the very reason for his asylum application which has been filed today,” Kayishema’s lawyer, Juan Smuts, told Reuters in an emailed response.
He said further details would be revealed in his client’s asylum application to officials at the Department of Home Affairs.
The state prosecutor will oppose any bail application on domestic charges should the accused consider applying in future, the NPA said, adding the asylum application had no bearing on the court case.
Kayishema remains in custody and the case was postponed to Aug. 18 for further investigation.