updated 3/13/2008 11:56:12 AM ET 2008-03-13T15:56:12

A Rwandan priest has been jailed for life after a U.N. tribunal extended his sentence for ordering militiamen to burn and bulldoze a church with 1,500 people inside.

The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda's ruling came after Roman Catholic priest Athanase Seromba appealed his 2006 conviction, a statement posted on the body's Web site late Wednesday said. He was originally sentenced to 15 years in prison.

The tribunal is trying the alleged masterminds of the 1994 Rwandan genocide in which more than 500,000 minority Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed by Hutu extremists over a 100-day period.

The tribunal said it convicted Seromba for "his role in the destruction of the church in Nyange Parish, and the consequent death of approximately 1,500 Tutsi refugees sheltering inside."

Seromba was convicted of leading a militia that attacked the people and poured fuel through the roof of the church, while police threw grenades inside. After failing to kill everybody inside the church, Seromba ordered it to be demolished, the tribunal found.


Thousands of Rwandans have turned away from Catholicism, angered and saddened by the complicity of church officials in the genocide.

Priests, nuns and followers were implicated in the killings and some churches were sites of notorious massacres.

The Rwanda war crimes tribunal has delivered 32 judgments, including five acquittals, since the U.N. Security Council established it in November 1994. There are 27 trials under way.

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