Back to Court: Rusesabagina & Co. Trial to Kick off Tuesday

Paul Rusesabagina (middle) in the dock in a previous hearing.

The trial of Hotel Rwanda ‘hero’ and terror suspect Paul Rusesabagina and two former spokespersons and members of the armed group he founded is expected to kick off on Tuesday, January 26, at the High Court Chamber of International and Cross-border Crimes. 

Rusesabagina, 66, will be charged alongside Callixte Nsabimana and Herman Nsengimana, both former spokespersons of the National Liberation Front (FLN), the armed wing of Rwanda Movement for Democratic Change (MRCD), the political coalition he led and 16 others, facing terror-related charges. 

The Hotel Rwanda movie protagonist will defend himself against 9 charges, instead of the initial 13 charges Prosecutors had brought forward when he first appeared in court in September last year. The charges include terrorism, conspiracy to commit and finance terrorism, kidnapping and murder, among other charges. 

The trial is expected to commence via video live streaming, with the suspects and their lawyers in one room while prosecutors and judges will also be in a special room fitted with cameras to allow live transmission, due to the New Coronavirus restrictions. 

Prosecution has submitted the final indictment for 18 suspects linked to the MRCD-FLN group of insurgents, following the conclusion of investigations, and will now wait for a trial date to be set for the case to proceed in its substance. 

This was confirmed on Tuesday, November 17, by prosecution spokesperson Faustin Nkusi, who said that they submitted the indictment to the high court. 

Rusesabagina with his former lawyers David Rugaza and Emeline Nyembo.

Other suspects in the case include Félicien Nsanzubukire (also known as Fred Irakiza), Anastase Munyaneza, and Jean-Chrétien Ndagijimana, who is a son of the late FLN commander Laurent Ndagijimana, also known as Wilson Irategeka and others who were mainly arrested in different operations following the attacks FLN carried out in the South Western part of the country between 2018 and 2019. 

Rusesabagina is expected to be represented by lawyer Gatera Gashabana after the first two lawyers who represented him pulled out of the case. The trial will kick off following different efforts and appeals by Rusesabagina seeking his release were turned down by different courts. 

According to sources, Prosecution has lined up over 80 witnesses, including survivors of FLN attacks in Nyaruguru, Nyamasheke, Nyamagabe and Rusizi districts, where the rebels carried out incursions between June 2018 and April 2019, killing scores, looting property and kidnapping several people.

Rusesabagina, the founding president of MRCD, a coalition of different political groups, did not plead guilty to the charges during pre-trial hearing but admitted to sending money to fighters in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) but said that he thought he was ‘just helping out’.

 Majority of the FLN fighters whose cases were merged with those of Rusesabagina, Nsabimana and Nsengimana, were captured in the jungles of Eastern DRC and handed over to Rwanda by Congolese authorities. 

Last year, Prosecutors applied for the merger of the cases since they were related in one way or another, a wish which was granted by court. Nsabimana also requested the court to merge the cases because they worked under the orders of Rusesabagina who was the overall leader of the group. 

The former hotelier-turned-activist has attempted to argue that he was not Rwanda and should be released to return to the U.S where he has residency and Belgium where he has citizenship but the argument was dismissed by court.




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