A Rwandan man was on Monday sentenced to more than eight years in prison for lying about his involvement in the East African country’s 1994 genocide in order to gain asylum in the U.S.
Jean Leonard Teganya, 47, was convicted in April of two counts of immigration fraud and three counts of perjury, a statement from the U.S. Department of Justice said.
“Mr. Teganya was convicted and sentenced for the most serious form of immigration fraud: lying about his status as a war criminal to win asylum in the United States,” said U.S. Attorney Andrew E. Lelling.
“Based on the evidence admitted at trial, the defendant committed horrendous crimes during the Rwandan genocide and then sought to deceive U.S. immigration authorities about his past. Especially in the context of genocide, American asylum laws exist to protect the persecuted – not the persecutors,” Lelling said.
Some 800,000 people – ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus – were killed in 100 days by Hutu militias during the Rwandan genocide in 1994. More than two million refugees fled Rwanda, generating a humanitarian crisis.
Before the genocide, Teganya was enrolled as a medical student at the National University of Rwanda, in Butare. At the time of the genocide, he was a member of the MRND political party, the ruling Hutu-dominated party that incited the genocide.
Teganya was also a member of the Interahamwe, the MRND youth wing, where he participated in martial arts and weapons training.
“During the genocide, Teganya remained at the hospital in Butare, where he led teams of soldiers and Interahamwe around the hospital to locate Tutsi patients and refugees hiding in the hospital. Once discovered, the Tutsis were taken and killed behind the maternity ward. Teganya also led teams of soldiers and Interahawme who took Tutsi women to be raped,” the statement from the U.S. Department of Justice said.
Teganya participated in the murders of seven Tutsis, as well as, the rape of two Tutsi women, the statement said.
At the end of the genocide in mid-July 1994, Teganya fled Rwanda, travelling to the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, India, and then Canada, where he applied for asylum in 1999.
“Canadian authorities twice determined that Teganya was not entitled to asylum because he had been complicit in atrocities committed at the Butare hospital during the genocide,” the statement said.
After 15 years of asylum proceedings, Teganya evaded the Canadian deportation order and fled across the border into the U.S. In 2014, he was found walking on foot by U.S. Customs and Border Control officers after he had crossed from Canada into Houlton, Maine.
He was taken into custody and he formally applied for asylum but he did not mention his membership with MRND or his activities during the genocide.
U.S. officials have since indicated that Teganya will be deported once he completes his 97-month prison sentence.