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UN court action against Rwandan priest angers Florence Archdiocese

The Archdiocese of Florence in Italy has protested publicly about the way in which a UN Court in Rwanda presented accusations against a Rwandan priest living in Italy.

Carla Del Ponte, a court's attorney, revealed to the media the accusations of genocide against Fr Athanase Sumba Bura, before he told the priest.

Riccardo Bigi, spokesman of the Archdiocese of Florence, told Vatican Radio that "this is an act that is not altogether correct".

To date, the UN Court has not succeeded in recalling Fr Suma Bura, because the Italian government opposes his extradition to appear before this judicial institution, which is based in Arusha, Tanzania.

Press reports indicate that the priest is accused of having accepted more than 2000 Tutsis into the church of Nyange village, and encouraging extremists to massacre them.

"Fr Athanase has neither fled nor is he hiding from the law," the spokesman said. "What is more, he has always expressed his total willingness to explain and answer accusations in appropriate quarters."

The archdiocese maintains that there are many doubts about the accusations made against the priest: "Unfortunately, in the past there have been cases where prosecution began, because of very serious accusations against Rwandan religious, which were later found to be completely false. This was the case, for example, of Bishop Augustine Misago of Gikongoro."

A Rwandan court requested the death penalty for the bishop, who was eventually cleared of all charges.

Fr Athanase has said he thinks someone has a special interest in attacking the Church in Rwanda.