Hassan Ngeze, the editor of the extremist Hutu magazine, was originally jailed for life by a judge of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) in 2003, for “poisoning” the minds of readers against Tutsis.
He is also known for publishing the “Hutu Ten Commandments” in the December edition of his paper in 1990, which were essential in creating and spreading the anti-Tutsi feeling among Rwandan Hutus that led to the Genocide.
Hassan was convicted on several counts of genocide-related crimes, and of aiding and abetting extermination as a crime against humanity.
Four years later, the sentence was reduced to 35 years. He is now being considered for early release by US Judge Theodor Meron, who oversees the international court.
This was after Ngeze applied for early release in March this year. His lawyers are hopeful that their client will be granted that release later this month.
This has since sparked anger in Rwanda, particularly among the lawyers who originally put him behind bars.
According to news site The Guardian, Simone Monasebian, one of the prosecutors in the original case, has written to the judge, arguing that the words used in Ngeze’s publications “were more potent and dangerous than any bullets or machetes”.
She added that Ngeze was the “mastermind of the genocide”.
For Rwanda’s National Commission for the Fight against Genocide (CNLG) any decisions such as a possible release of Ngeze “demean the genocide against Tutsis, and give room for impunity”.
“ICTR ruled that Ngeze used the media to propagate hatred and warned that none should ever use the media for such a serious crime, so granting him early release is not acceptable,” the Commission added.
The attorney-general of Rwanda, Johnson Businye has also called for “an investigation into the basis for these releases, and asking that they be brought to a halt.”
Meron has so far granted early release to about 10 genocide convicts and the fear is that Ngeze may also be given the same opportunity.
The Rwandan government is demanding a public hearing so objections from survivors of the genocide can be heard before any early release should be considered.
At least 800,000 people – ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus – were killed in 100 days by Hutu militias during the 1994 Rwandan Genocide.
More than two million refugees fled Rwanda, generating a humanitarian crisis.
Besides Ngeze, other applications who have applied for early release include an application by Col. Simba Aloys and Dominique Ntawukuriryayo who are serving 25 and 20 years respectively.