Cassien Ntamuhanga, who was previously sentenced to 25 years in prison on terror and treason charges, was on Thursday sentenced in absentia to another 25 years after he was found guilty of facilitating terror activities through Phocas Ndayizera and 13 others who were involved in the trial.
Ndayizera, a former freelance contributor to BBC Gahuzamiryango, was sentenced 10 years in prison by the High Court Chamber for International and Cross-border crimes after he was found guilty of working closely with Ntamuhanga, who escaped from prison in 2017, to plot terror activities.
Ndayizera, who was arrested in November 2018, was accused of plotting to manufacture dynamite bombs which would be detonated in different parts of the country, in a case that involved 12 others, with Ntamuhanga as the main financier of the plot.
In a verdict that was issued via a video link on Thursday, the Judge said that all the 13 defendants were acquitted on the charge of conspiracy to overthrow the government but found guilty on the charge of conspiracy to commit terrorism and, illegally using and handling explosives.
Ndayizera was accused of plotting to make explosives using dynamite which they would allegedly detonate in crowded places, power plants and fuel depots. He had pleaded guilty but later turned around to claim that his previous confession was under duress.
Prosecution told court that Ndayizera had communicated with Ntamuhanga, who had previously been sentenced on terrorism and treason charges in the case involving deceased singer Kizito Mihigo, to find someone who could make the explosives using dynamite.
The said explosives would then be set off in different locations including Jali Power Station, Nyabugogo near the butchery and other places including Maison de Jeunes in Kimisagara. The said individuals in the case would be used to detonate the bombs using mobile phones and flee to Uganda afterwards.
Prosecutors further said that Ndayizera had rented a house in the Southern Province district of Muhanga where the dynamite bombs would be made and hired one Eliaquim Karangwa, who had knowledge on making explosives using different explosive materials.
It was revealed that Ndayizera and Karangwa came up with a budget of $15, 000 for making the improvised explosive devices which they shared with Ntamuhanga but the latter said that the amount was too high and that in the meantime he could afford $1,500, which was enough to make the bombs.
Ntamuhanga then sent Karangwa $ 579 to buy materials to start making the bombs. The money was sent in November 2018. The group reportedly used coded language to disguise their activities according to Prosecution.
Ndayizera had previously pleaded guilty to the charges and said that he was misled by different individuals including Ntamuhanga. He wrote to different institutions apologizing for his actions and seeking forgiveness.
Karangwa on the other hand said that he was not aware of the purpose of the explosives when he was engaged and that he didn’t even know that Ntamuhanga was involved, until the day he was arrested. However, they both made a U-turn on their admissions, claiming that they did so under duress and alleged torture.
Prosecution maintained that their change in position did not matter as the allegations were backed with evidence, including exchanges between Ntamuhanga and Ndayizera, which pin the duo on the plot.
The court ruled that Ntamuhanga, Ndayizera, Karangwa and five other defendants were guilty on charges of conspiracy to engage in unlawful use of explosives in a public place and conspiracy to commit acts of terrorism.
Ntamuhanga was sentenced to 25 years in prison while Ndayizera, Karangwa and five of his colleagues were sentenced to 10 years in prison. The Judge said they could have received lengthy sentences ranging between 20 to 25 years but they received lenient sentences because their activities were nipped in the bud before they could happen.
Ndayizera’s lawyer was quoted by local media stating that they would appeal the sentence based on several flaws that appeared in the Prosecution submissions.
Ntamuhanga, a former director of the closed Amazing Grace Radio, escaped from Mpanga in 2017 and has since been actively involved in anti-government activities and openly joined the groups he was previously accused of working with to destabilise the country.
Six of the co-accused were acquitted and will be released immediately.