By Jean Gatera
Paul Rusesabagina, the head of MRCD-FLN, who was arrested for terrorism-related on the 31st of August appeared in Court today at 10 AM. This was at Kagarama Primary Court with his lawyers David Rugaza and Emiline Nyembo as Prosecution laid a total of 14 charges against the suspect.
During the hearing Rusesabagina’s lawyer questioned the court’s jurisdiction over his client, “given that Rusesabagina was not a resident of Kagarama Sector in Kicukiro (Kigali), and that his client was not a resident of Rwanda, and that nor was he present when the alleged crimes were committed.” The attorney further asserted that his client should not be tried for crimes committed by a different party [the MRCD’s armed wing FLN] simply for having entered into a partnership.
Rusesabagina’s lawyer argued that his client should be granted immediate released.
The defense strategy was seemingly to separate MRCD and its military wing the FLN, but the prosecution showed that the two could not be separated from Rusesabagina. “Rusesabagina can’t be separated from MRCD-FLN actions. As the leader of the groups, he took responsibility; and in questioning, he admitted to the actions of the groups and even said that he regretted forming them. Hence, he (Rusesabagina) cannot be separated from their actions,” the prosecutor maintained.
On the subject of jurisdiction, Prosecution argued that Rusesabagina was arrested at Kanombe Airport, and owing to the fact that he had property in Rwanda, the court had jurisdiction in pre-trial detention matters.
Prosecution further exposed to the court that Rusesabagina’s citizenship or permanent residency did not provide immunity to crimes committed in Rwanda. Also, Rwanda tries foreigners that commit crimes, the prosecution reminded the court.
To the Defense’s claim that their client was a victim of his freedom of expression, Prosecution pointed out that what the suspect did was more than express his views. The prosecution elaborated the charge that Rusesabagina knowingly financing terrorist attacks and pointed to evidence.
On the charge of financing terrorism, Rusesabagina’s lawyer argued that “it was a case of small charitable amounts”. Prosecution disagreed, saying that “amounts in the range of US$ 20,000 could not be seen as charity.”