Paul Rusesabagina, Rwanda’s longtime government critic who inspired the Hollywood film about 1994 genocide was yesterday arraigned before Kicukiro Primary Court where he was slapped with 13 charges, most of which linked to terrorism.
According to prosecution, Rusesabagina (66) is accused of creation and being part of an irregular armed group, financing terrorism, terror activities for political gains, conspiracy to commit terror activities, commanding terror acts and being part of a terrorist group.
He also faces the count of conspiracy and encouraging others to join a terror group, conspiracy to murder, conspiracy to kidnap, conspiracy to armed robbery, conspiracy to commit arson, conspiracy to aggravated assault and conspiracy to conscript children in an armed group.
During the pre-trial hearing held on Monday, September 14, prosecutors said that they have enough evidence to pin Rusesabagina as founder and chief financier of National Liberation Front (FLN), a terror group that has attacked Rwanda, killing innocent civilians.
The evidence, prosecutors said, include paperwork of money trail confirming Rusesabagina not only fundraised for, but also personally financed National Liberation Front (FLN), a militia group responsible for several atrocities on Rwandan territory.
Among the documents include those showing Rusesabagina sent a significant amount of money to the militia group; where at one point he contributed from his own account 20,000 Euros which was sent to FLN fighters.
Prosecutors said that part of the evidence in their custody was given to them by Belgian counterparts after they searched Rusesabagina’s Brussels home.
“He also led a fundraising drive which successfully raised 300,000 Euros. All this went towards an armed group that killed innocent Rwandans, took others hostage and pillaged and destroyed property,” Oscar Butera one of the prosecutors, charged.
Many of the atrocities committed by the terror group were in south western Rwanda, where at least nine lives were lost in 2018, and others injured.
According to prosecution, at least five vehicles were burnt and a local Sacco was pillaged by militia elements during the attacks.
The money, according to the trail picked by the Belgian police, was collected from Burundi and other occasions withdrawn in the Island countries of Comoros and Madagascar which were frequented by Callixte Nsabimana, the former spokesperson of the outfit.
Nsabimana is in custody and is also battling terrorism charges at the High Court Specialised Chamber for International and Cross-Border Crimes located in Nyanza. He has pleaded guilty.
On other occassions, according to paperwork in the custody of prosecution, the money to finance terror activities was sent by Rusesabagina’s wife Tatiana.
Rusesabagina who did not deny the crimes, refused to enter a plea, saying that he had made a written submission detailing the acts for which he accepts to have taken part of.
He told court that this submission should be considered by court until the trial goes in substance.
However, during the court session, he acknowledged sending the 20,000 Euros to Nsabimana.
During the hearing, Rusesabagina asked court which was presided over by Dorothy Yankurije to give him bail, saying that he is sick and needs to be released so that he can be monitored by medical personnel.
“Like my lawyers have said, I am sick. In the past two weeks, I have been to hospital three times. I request that I get bail and I want to assure court that I will not flee from justice,” said Rusesabagina, who was clad in kakhi pants, a white shirt and checkered blazer.
He was accompanied by his two lawyers; David Rugaza and Emeline Nyembo throughout the court proceeding that lasted for the best half of the day.
Rugaza said that Rusesabagina was willing to raise any amount to be determined by prosecution to secure his provisional release, adding that “he was not a flight risk’.
However prosecution dismissed this, saying that there is no monetary value that can be attached to the lives that Rusesabagina is accused of taking, and said that the suspect did not present any sureties.
“We have in our custody serious incriminating evidence and the crimes he is accused of are very grave that by giving him bail, we risk him fleeing before he is held accountable for these crimes,” Butera said.
Regarding Rusesabagina’s sickness, prosecution said that they are aware of his condition, but hastened to add that he has not lacked medical attention all the time he has been in custody, a fact that the suspect agreed with.
“He is on record saying that he has enjoyed his full rights while in custody; we have mechanisms in place where all the rights of people in our custody are fully respected,” he said.
Following the deliberations from both sides, the judge adjourned the hearing, saying that court would pronounce itself on the Rusesabagina’s bail application on Thursday, September 17 at 2pm.
Earlier in the day, defence had raised an objection that Kicukiro Primary Court was not competent to try Rusesabagina, citing different reasons including the territorial competence of the court to hear the pre-trial hearing.
Court however dismissed the claim, saying that it was competent owing to the fact that Rusesabagina was arrested at Kigali International Airport, located in Nyarugunga Sector and this is within the jurisdiction of the court.