EUROPE BURNS: Rwandan Asylum Seeker Admits to Arson of Historic Cathedral in France

A Rwandan asylum-seeker has been charged in the arson of a historic medieval church in Nantes, France. The Nantes Cathedral had been set ablaze earlier this month, suffering damages that led some to believe the building would be destroyed. The church’s historic organ has been rendered beyond repair.

In a twist, the suspect in question, a volunteer involving in maintaining the cathedral premises, had been originally cleared by French prosecutors after being investigated for his role in the fire. Now, after being initially cleared, he’s been charged after admitting to starting the fire at the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul.

The thus-unnamed 39-year old individual is alleged to have set three fires at the cathedral; one at an electrical box, and two near the church’s organ. He has been identified as an asylum seeker, who was only recently ordered to depart from the country in March after his claim to asylum was rejected by the French government.

The man had been taken into custody the day after the fire, only to be later released when he strenuously rejected any involvement in the fire. He was brought back into custody on Saturday and questioned with new evidence suggesting he started the fire, and admitted to his culpability in the incident to investigators.

Nantes prosecutors have explained that the asylum seeker has been charged with “destruction and damage by fire” and could face a 10-year jail term and a fine of 150,000 euros ($175,000) if convicted.

The Nantes Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul first began its construction in A.D. 1434, and was built over a remarkable period of 500 years, reaching completion in 1891.

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