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PARIS - A French appeals court released two Rwandans suspected of involvement in the central African country's 1994 genocide, according French media reports.

Rwanda had sought the extradition of Roman Catholic priest Wenceslas Munyeshyaka and another man, Laurent Bucyibaruta, but the court ruled the indictments violated the presumption of innocence, Le Monde newspaper reported on its website.

They were detained last month because of the indictments issued by Rwanda and the Tanzania-based International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), which is prosecuting top architects of the genocide. The two have lived in France for years.

Their release occurred as French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said he would probably visit Rwanda "very soon" in a move that would signal a thaw in relations after Kigali broke off diplomatic ties with Paris last year.

Rwanda's decision followed a French judge's call for President Paul Kagame to stand trial over the death of his predecessor in April 1994, an event that unleashed the genocide in which some 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus died.

Former rebel leader Kagame and other critics accuse France of covering up its role in training troops who carried out the massacres and propping up the Hutu leaders who deployed them.

France denies the charge and says its forces helped protect people during a UN-sanctioned mission in Rwanda at the time.

The present Tutsi-led Rwandan government wanted Munyeshyaka to be transferred to Rwanda to serve a life sentence as he had been tried and sentenced in absentia. It wanted Bucyibaruta to stand trial.

The ICTR has charged Bucyibaruta, a former top local official in Gikongoro district, with genocide, direct and public incitement to commit genocide, extermination, murder and rape.

Munyeshyaka, former head of the Sainte-Famille parish in Kigali, was sentenced in absentia to life in jail in November by a military tribunal for complicity in genocide and rape.

- REUTERS