The National Public Prosecution Authority is set to apply for the merger of the trial of terror suspect Paul Rusesabagina with those of former commanders and fighters of the National Liberation Front (FLN), including the armed group spokespersons Callixte Nsabimana and Herman Nsengimana, who are all in detention.
The Prosecutor General Aimable Havugiyaremye on Monday said that the application will be made to court seeking for the merger of the cases of Rusesabagina and the duo as well as 16 other fighters who are also expected to be tried on terror-related crimes.
“Paul Rusesabagina will be charged with various criminal offences, including terrorism, financing terrorism, recruiting child soldiers, kidnapping, arson, and forming terror groups. This is in connection with his leadership role in the armed group known as MRCD/FLN,”
“I would like to inform you that we have in custody 16 FLN fighters, including senior commanders, who are suspected of taking part in the attacks in southern Rwanda in 2018. They include Félicien Nsanzubukire (also known as Fred Irakiza), Anastase Munyaneza, and Jean-Chrétien Ndagijimana (son of the late FLN commander Laurent Ndagijimana, also known as Wilson Irategeka),”
“A full list of the 16 fighters in custody will be provided to you. Prosecution intends to submit a joint indictment of these 16 defendants, together with Mr. Paul Rusesabagina. Prosecution will also file a request with the court to merge this case together with the case of Callixte Nsabimana and Herman Nsengimana,” the Prosecutor General said.
He said that Prosecution believes that all 19 defendants should be tried together. Nsabimana and Nsengiman were already undergoing trial at the High Court Chamber for International Crimes in Nyanza District.
The Prosecutor General said that when suspects have committed crimes together in the same place at the same time, it is common for their trials to be merged.
“This is a common practice, known as the principle of connectivity of offenses, which is provided for in our laws. This means that when a group of defendants is charged with the same crimes in the same place at the same time, it is in the interest of justice for court to consider the cases together,” Havugiyaremye told the media.
Havugiyaremye thanked the Rwandan law enforcement agencies involved in his arrest and his Belgian counterpart for responding their request for international judicial cooperation to conduct a search of Mr. Rusesabagina’s residence.
“The evidence collected during this search will be presented in court,” he said.
Regarding claims by Rusesabagina’s family that he is yet to have access to defence lawyers of his choice, the Prosecutor General said that while it is not the role of the Prosecution to find Lawyers for Rusesabagina, he retains the right to choose lawyers of his choice, pointing out that even international lawyers who wish to be part of his defence team can apply through the Rwanda Bar Association (RBA)).
“The Prosecution is not involved in the choice of defence lawyers of the suspect. Rusesabagina is free to choose his own defence lawyers and he is also free to change them at anytime,” he said adding that the criteria is on the bar association website.
Regarding Rusesabagina’s citizenship, Havugiyaremye said that Rusesabagina’s citizenship as pronounced in court is not in question as he is a citizens by birth and there is no record of him relinquishing his citizenship. He also said that under Rwandan laws, anyone accused of committing crimes on Rwandan soil can be charged in Rwandan courts regardless of their nationality.
Last week, the High Court Chamber for International and Cross-Border Crimes in Nyanza district ruled in favour of the Prosecution request to combine the trial of Nsabimana and Nsengimana, who will not be in the same dock with Rusesabagina.
The court decision was taken this Thursday last week after the presiding judge stated that there was enough reason to combine both cases since the duo shares similar charges on crimes levied against them.
Both prosecution and the Nsabimana had earlier on September 11, posed arguments for and against a request to have a combined trial.
Nsabimana alias Sankara, is facing 17 counts of terror charges on alleged crimes including murder and arson committed in Nyamagabe District and around Nyungwe National Park in 2018.
Since last year, he has been able to respond to nine of the charges and has been battling the remaining eight charges of which he shares with his FLN successor- Nsengimana.
It’s on this basis that prosecution had argued in the August digital format court trial that both suspects held the same position (as FLN Spokesmen) and thus a need to try both suspects on the same charges.
Prosecution also based its argument on allegations that Nsabimana is the one who recruited Nsengimana and by having both tried together, the case trial would be speeded up.
Nsabimana, also earlier on agreed to the prosecution’s request and suggested their case should be aligned with that of Rusesabagina, who also faces 13 charges.
Sankara, who has pleaded guilty to most of the charges told the high court chamber that justice will be served if he is tried alongside Rusesabagina, whom he referred to as ‘The Boss’.
FLN is accused of launching attacks on the south western part of Rwanda in the districts of Nyaruguru, Nyamagabe, Nyamasheke and Rusizi, killing at least 9, injuring dozens and looting properties worth millions.
While appearing in court for his pre-trial detention hearing, Rusesabgina admitted to financing FNL, but said that he did not know that their activities would lead to the death of innocent civilians, adding that their intention was to attract the attention of the Rwandan government and the international community.
Prosecutors however say that Rusesebagina, who was presented in Rwanda on August 31, must be accountable for the crimes committed by FLN, the armed wing of the Rwandan Movement for Democratic Change (MRCD) coalition which Rusesabagina was the leader.