By Jean Gatera.
The Primary Court of Kagarama (Kicukiro District) has ruled in the pre-trial detention hearing that Paul Rusesabagina —leader of terrorist group MRCD-FLN — who is charged with terrorism, arson and murder among the 13 criminal counts he is facing, will be remanded in custody for 30 more days awaiting his trial in substance.
In the ruling, the judge said, “court analyzed the merits of each of the 13 charges and found that indeed there was serious incriminating evidence against Rusesabagina.” Reading Rusesabagina the charges the judge noted that based on the defense and the prosecution submission, and given the gravity of the charges, “there is reasonable ground to keep the suspect in custody”. Furthermore, Court found it necessary that a 30-day period of provisional detention in a prison facility be granted to ensure that ongoing investigations are protected from sabotage.
Paul Rusesabagina immediately addressed the court and announced his decision to appeal the court ruling. “I want to inform court that I’m appealing against the decision”, he said, to which the judge answered, “that is duly noted and will be put on the court record.”
Wanted by the Rwandan Justice for terrorist activities, Rusesabagina was presented to the media on 31st last month at Rwanda Investigation Bureau (RIB) offices where its spokesman announced his arrest. RIB transferred his case to National Public Prosecutions Authority Office on 9 this month. Rusesabagina appeared in Court for his pre-trial detention hearing on Monday, this week.
Represented by two lawyers, Rusesabagina declined to enter a plea. His reason for pleading neither innocent nor guilty was that “he feared to self-incriminate”. He stated that he had apologized for some of the charges he faced but did not want to give details about them.
FLN, the military wing of Rusesabagina’s MRCD, carried out several attacks on unarmed civilians in Southern Rwanda and claimed publicly responsibility for it. They killed innocent civilians, kidnapped others, burnt properties, but would flee into the thick Nyungwe Forest when Rwanda national security forces foiled their attacks. In Court, Rusesabagina apologized for FLN’s attacks claiming “that was not the mission FLN was given.” But it contradicted earlier online videos where Rusesabagina openly rallied for support to FLN terror campaign.
In the pre-trial detention hearing, evidence that Rusesabagina sent money FLN emerged. In addition, Prosecution mentioned that other proof of terrorist financing was acquired from the Belgium police that had searched Rusesabagina’s residence in Brussels. His defense did not deny that Rusesabagina transferred money to FLN members. They claimed these were “small charitable donations for humanitarian causes.” Prosecution, however, showed that the transfers amounted to far more than what would be called “small charitable” donations.
The sums amounted to more than 20,000 Euros that Rusesabagina personally provided, and over US$ 300,000 that he raised from other sources for the terrorist organization.
The defence team argued for Rusesabagina to be granted bail “on grounds of poor health”, and said their client was ready to abide by any restrictions or conditions set. Prosecution opposed bail pointing out how Rusesabagina had been actively involved in terrorist activities since 2009. It was then indicated that special arrangements had been made to adequately address the health issues advanced by Rusesabagina’s team.
Prosecution also argued that faced with such serious charges, and with such overwhelming evidence, Rusesabagina would flee at the slightest opportunity.