A Rwandan man found guilty of hiding his involvement in the country’s 1994 genocide in an effort to win asylum in the United States was sentenced on Monday to over eight years in prison.
Jean Leonard Teganya, now 47, was found guilty of immigration fraud in April after lying about his involvement in the 1994 genocide while applying for asylum in the United States.
Prosecutors said that Teganya was responsible for at least seven murders and five rapes during the genocide while studying for his medical degree, charges which Teganya denies.
Teganya fled to Canada after the genocide, where he was denied refugee status because of his involvement in the massacre. He then crossed into the United States, where he was arrested by U.S. border agents in 2014.
The genocide, which lasted just 100 days, saw the slaughter of an estimated 800,000 Tutsis and Hutus who opposed the killings at the hands of Hutu extremists, in what remains the deadliest genocide since the Holocaust.
“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 prosecutor 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,” he continued. “Especially in the context of genocide, American asylum laws exist to protect the persecuted – not the persecutors.”
Peter C. Fitzhugh, Special Agent in Charge for Homeland Security Investigations, added that Teganya had participated in “unimaginable acts of violence.”
“The defendant committed unimaginable acts of violence and brutality,” he said. “Today’s sentencing clearly demonstrates that this nation will never be a safe haven for human rights violators and war criminals. Homeland Security Investigations will continue to work closely with our federal and international partners to relentlessly pursue such criminals and protect our nation’s legal immigration systems.”
Judge F. Dennis Saylor IV said he was conflicted over the sentencing decision as Teganya was not on trial for his crimes committed during the genocide. “The basic question is: Do I sentence him as a liar or do I sentence him as a murder, or a rapist, or genocide participant?” he asked before sentencing.
Teganya’s attorney, Scott Lauer, argued his client, who declined to speak during the hearing, was a religious family man who has led a “quiet and unassuming life” over the previous 25 years. He also sought to emphasize the fact that Teganya was not facing charges related to the genocide.
After his sentence is completed, Teganya will be returned to Rwanda where he is expected to face further prosecution.