Ex-Rwandan police officer Fulgence Kayishema, accused of participating in the 1994 Rwandan genocide, has abandoned his application for bail and applied for asylum in South Africa, prosecuting authorities announced on Tuesday.
Kayishema, who has been on the run since 2001, was arrested last month under the false name of Donatien Nibashumba on a grape farm outside Cape Town.
The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) had indicted him for genocide for his alleged role in the destruction of the Nyange Catholic Church, one of the bloodiest episodes in the 1994 Rwandan genocide, killing 2,000 people.
Kayishema faces 54 charges in South Africa, including some related to immigration fraud, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) announced in a statement and added that the 62-year-old accused “has abandoned his bail application and will instead launch an asylum application today”.
The statement, however, did not indicate on what grounds Kayishema was applying for asylum. Spokespersons for NPA and the defence team did not immediately respond to requests from the Reuters news agency for further information.
More than 800,000 Rwandans, most from the Tutsi ethnic group, were killed during 100 days of violence by forces and vigilantes from the Hutu ethnic group. Thousands of moderate Hutus were also killed in the violence, considered one of the worst atrocities of the 20th century.
At the Nyange church, Hutu militia lobbed grenades and then doused it with fuel to set it ablaze. When that failed, they knocked down the church with bulldozers, and most of those hiding inside died.
He has denied any involvement in violence during the genocide, but has said he was “sorry” for the killings during his court appearance in the South African city of Cape Town in May.
Kayishema’s arrest left only three fugitives indicted by the international tribunal whose whereabouts remain unknown. South African police said the arrest was made in response to an Interpol red notice.
He remains in custody and the case was postponed to August 18 for further investigation.