Hotel Rwanda protagonist and ‘hero’ Paul Rusesabagina this Thursday lost his bail appeal, with the Nyarugenge Intermediate Court upholding the earlier decision of the Kicukiro Primary Court to keep the 66-year old in detention, confirming that there are strong reasons to suspect that the defendant committed crimes of a serious nature, related to terrorism.
Judge Adolphe Udahemuka, while presiding over the bail appeal ruling, said that the court was convinced that the decision by the lower court was correct, nullifying earlier arguments by Rusesabagina and his lawyers that his detention is illegal because he had no direct control of the terror group National Liberation Front (NLF), commonly known by its French acronym FLN.
Rusesabagina had also raised concerns around his health but court ruled that there is evidence to prove that his health is well taken care of in detention. Court ruled in favour of upholding the Kicukiro Primary Court decision to keep Rusesabagina in custody for 30 days pending the substantive trial.
While submitting his appeal on Friday last week, Rusesabagina and his lawyers argued that the concerns they raised in the lower court which denied him bail were not addressed but Nyarugenge Intermediate Court said that there were no violations of his rights following an assessment which was done.
On the concern of Rusesabagina being arraigned in a court that did not have territorial jurisdiction, Judge Udahemuka said that there was no violation found because the location where Rusesabagina was arrested, which is Kigali International Airport, falls within the jurisdiction of Kicukiro Primary Court.
Court also ruled that the claim by the defence that the alleged crimes by Rusesabagina were committed before the current penal code was also dismissed by the Judge saying that the same crimes existed in the penal code.
Among other arguments thrown out by court is that Rusesabagina is not Rwandan and should not be charged in Rwanda, since he is a Belgian citizen with permanent residence in America. The Judge said that Rusesabagina’s Rwandan citizenry can never be in doubt, hence the argument is invalid.
Udahemuka ruled that during the first appearance in court, Rusesabagina confirmed his biodata and ancestry, which confirms that he is Rwandan by birth and there is no proof to suggest that he renounced his citizenship.
The judge said that the former hotelier is not only Rwandan by birth but he also did not relinquish his Rwandan citizenship. Even minus that, the judge said that Rwanda retains the right and sovereignty to try anyone who commits crimes on Rwandan soil.
On terrorism activities, the Court ruled that Rusesabagina could not prove that he was not behind the creation of FLN or that he did not have direct control on the outfit because there is no record to prove so or a record of him denouncing the actions of the rebel group.
During the bail hearing, Rusesabagina told the court that he supported FLN but did not know that their activities would result in killing people, looting or setting ablaze property in the south western part of Rwanda between 2018 and 2019.
Rusesabagina also told the court that the creation of the illegal military group was not necessarily to wage but rather to draw the attention of the Rwandan government and the international community. Court said that there is enough reason to believe that Rusesabagina was behind the creation of the group and was aware of its activities.
The Judge further said that there is strong evidence to suggest that Rusesabagina had close links with the hate propaganda online radio ‘Radio Ubumwe’ which used to air anti-Rwanda government content linked to FLN and Rusesabagina’s coalition Rwandan Movement for Democratic Change (MRCD).
Rusesabagina while appearing in court admitted that he knew Esperance Mukashema, the presenter of the situation and acknowledged paying her a salary for an unstipulated period of time, something the judge says confirmed what the Prosecution had raised in court.
Judge Udahemuka said that in Rusesabagina’s submissions he admitted to financing the group and acknowledged money transfers to FLN and to the leader of the leader of the FDLR breakaway faction -the National Council for the Democratic Renewal (CNRD), Gen. Wilson Irategeka.
Court further based on the fact that Rusesabagina personally acknowledged the attacks by FLN and that he regrets that lives were lost in the districts of Nyaruguru, Nyamagabe, Rusizi and Nyamasheke, where the FLN incursions happened.
Court also confirmed that Rusesabagina could not distance himself from the fact that he was the superior leader of the MRCD coalition, even though it has several parties, dismissing his argument that he was not fully responsible for the goings-on in the group.
Rusesabagina’s lawyer Emeline Nyembo told journalists that they will not appeal the ruling but they were not satisfied that the court could not consider the challenges they submitted. She said they are ready to defend their client during the substantive hearing.
Rusesabagina faces 13 charges including creating an illegal army unit or joining it, engaging in terrorism or promoting terrorism, engaging in terrorism for political gain, treason, murder, involuntary manslaughter, complicity in the crime of hostage-taking, complicity in the crime of armed robbery, arson and recruiting children in military activities, among others.
His case is likely to be linked with that of the FLN Spokesperson Callixte Nsabimana and his replacement as FLN Spokesperson Herman Nsengimana, who were also arrested and are currently facing similar charges. Nsabimana and Nsengimana’s trials were merged yesterday.
The date for the commencement of the substantive trial is yet to be set. Prosecutors say they have lined up more than 100 witnesses, mainly survivors of the attacks in Nyaruguru and Nyamagabe districts where at least 9 people were killed in the FLN attacks while many were injured and lost properties.
The witnesses will include children who were forcefully kidnapped by attackers and recruited into the fighting militia which attacked from Burundi before they were repulsed by Rwanda Defence Force (RDF).