By Lynne Tuohy
---- — CONCORD, N.H. — A federal jury was seated Tuesday in the second trial of a New Hampshire mother accused of lying about her role in the Rwanda genocide in 1994 so that she could enter the United States and become a citizen.
Lawyers for both sides are scheduled to make opening statements Wednesday before testimony in the trial of 43-year-old Beatrice Munyenyezi of Manchester. The trial is expected to last two or three weeks.
U.S. District Judge Steven McAuliffe instructed both sides to avoid referring to the first trial last March, when jurors deadlocked and McAuliffe declared a mistrial. Munyenyezi, a mother of three who maintains her innocence, did not testify during the previous trial. She also declined comment to the media Tuesday, as she has in the past.
McAuliffe also ordered the lawyers not to mention the convictions of her husband and his mother.
Arsene Shalom Ntahobali and his mother were convicted by the International Criminal Tribunal on Rwanda and sentenced to life in prison in June 2011 for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes of violence. Both were considered high-ranking members of the Hutu militia party that orchestrated savage attacks on members of the rival Tutsis. Ntahobali also was convicted of rape. Their convictions are on appeal.
Prosecutors say Munyenyezi, then pregnant, manned a roadblock outside of the Butare hotel owned by her husband’s family and ordered the rape and murder of Tutsis and moderate Hutus. Up to 800,000 people were killed in the African country’s tribal war. Prosecutors say Munyenyezi lied when she denied having a role in the killings on applications to enter the U.S. in 1995 and to obtain citizenship in 2003.
Her attorney, Mark Howard, said Tuesday that his client feels “anxious and stressed ... But she knows she didn’t do this, and this is the process she has to go through.”
The jury of seven men and five women was chosen after lawyers questioned more than 30 candidates collectively about their ability to hear emotional testimony and whether Munyenyezi’s being pregnant when she allegedly took part in the atrocity would influence them. They were asked about immigration and whether people entering the country should answer truthfully on applications.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys John Capin and Aloke Chakravarty have refused to say why they have substituted most of their Rwandan witnesses in the first trial with a new roster. Some of the witnesses for the previous trial were prisoners serving life sentences for slayings committed during the genocide.
A juror from the first trial told The Associated Press previously that the jurors deadlocked partly because they believed the witnesses, who testified through a translator, did not understand all the questions they were asked.
The juror also said panel members were not convinced Munyenyezi took part in the slaughter, although 10 of the 12 believed she lied on government documents when she disavowed any affiliation with any political party during the genocide. The juror spoke on condition of anonymity because the panel member feared being harassed or threatened.
After moving to New Hampshire, Munyenyezi worked for several years as a family services coordinator for the Manchester Housing and Redevelopment Authority for $13 an hour. She was working as a nurse’s aide at Elliott Hospital in Manchester when she was indicted in 2010 and then held without bond.
After the mistrial, Munyenyezi was released in April to home confinement and electronic monitoring. Prosecutors opposed her release, but the judge said holding her until a second trial seemed like punishment after the mistrial.