The High Court Chamber for International and Cross-border Crimes on Monday found Paul Rusesabagina guilty of forming terror group or being a member a terrorist organisation and sentenced him to 25-years in Prison.
Rusesabagina was sentenced in a trial involving 20 others, all members of the National Liberation Front (FLN), an armed wing of the Rwanda Movement for Democratic Change (MRCD) coalition, which he led. Also sentenced was two former spokespersons of FLN Callixte Nsabimana, who was handed 20 years, while Herman Nsengimana was sentenced to five years.
“Rusesabagina is guilty of creating and being a member of a terrorist organisation but he is not guilty of forming an illegal armed group. He is therefore sentence to 25 years in prison,” Justice Antoine Muhima said after a lengthy verdict rendering.
Rusesabagina was found guilty of orchestrating the formation of FLN and recruiting fighters to join it.
The Judge’s bench consisting of Justice Antoine Muhima, Justice Beatrice Mukamurenzi and Justice Eugene Ndagijimana, delivered the judgement after nearly 3 months of reviewing and assessing the submissions by Prosecution, the defence and civil parties involved in the trial.
Diplomats, journalists and representatives of different organisations filled up the courtroom located at the Supreme Court buildings in Kacyiru, to follow the proceedings, which were also relayed live on YouTube.
Court said that after assessing the different submissions by Rusesabagina and co-accused as well as evidence availed to court, Rusesabagina and Nsabimana, whose cases were merged last year, were guilty of forming, mobilizing and recruiting people into a terrorist organisation.
Justice Mukamurenzi said that after thoroughly assessing evidence, Rusesabagina and Nsabimana cannot be separated from the Rwanda Movement for Democratic Change (MRCD) coalition, which Rusesabagina led, or its actions.
Court further ruled that based on the actions of MRCD and its armed wing FLN, the Rusesabagina-led organisations qualify to be designated as ‘terrorist groups’, mainly because of engaging in acts that claimed at least 9 lives, injured dozens and led to loss of properties and valuables worth millions.
Based on that, Rusesabagina and Nsabimana, who were heard on different media claiming responsibility of the attacks on the south western part of Rwanda, openly declaring war on the Government of Rwanda and sensitizing young people to join the war, they are guilty of creating a terror organisation and encouraging others to join it.
Court further dwelled on the different amounts of money Rusesabagina sent to different people including Gen. Wilson Irategeka, Gen. Alexis Antoine Jeva and to Nsabimana himself, as evidence that he deliberately financed terrorism activities.
Though in court Rusesabagina said that he sent the money as ‘charitable or humanitarian support’, Judges said that there is evidence to suggest that Rusesabagina did not just send money, he went ahead to fundraise for armed activities and sent whichever money received to support fighters on the battlefield.
During court appearances, Ndabimana admitted that Rusesabagina often sent money to the fighters as a way of facilitating attacks, including buying guns and other logistical needs.
Justice Mukamurenzi said that part of the evidence submitted by Prosecution include exchanges between Rusesabagina and the new leaders of FLN, who are all former members of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), who he used to support, dating back to 2010, before they joined his outfit.
The evidence, which includes files retrieved from Rusesabagina’s phone and computer by Belgian authorities, at the request of the National Public Prosecution Authority of Rwanda, pins Rusesabagina on mobilising and financing a terror organisation.
“Basing on the analysis of evidence presented to court and the outcome of the different interrogations, and based on his own admission and testimonies of other co-defendants in the case, Rusesabagina is guilty of establishing and deliberately financing a terror organisation,” Justice Mukamurenzi said.
Court further said that there is proof that Rusesabagina and Nsabimana as the FLN spokesperson took up the task of mobilizing people, including commanders from different armed groups inside the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), to join their cause.
Their efforts and financing enabled the attacks orchestrated in the districts of Nyamagabe, Rusizi, Nyaruguru and Nyamasheke, though Rusesabagina said that when he sent funds, the intention was not to engage in acts of terror, an argument court said was found to be baseless.
Judges said Rusesabagina was well aware of the outcome of the activities he was financing and was heard on social media, radio and television stations ‘bragging’ about the attacks and outlining their mission.
Based on this evidence, outcome of the attacks in different parts of the country, Rusesabagina and Nsabimana are liable of these treasonous offences. On his part, Nsabimana was found guilty of recruiting at least 30 young people into the ranks of FNL.
Nsabimana was also found guilty of spreading falsehoods and propaganda aimed at tarnishing the image of the Government of Rwanda and denying the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, through several speeches aired on mainstream media and social media.
Records showed that Rusesabagina, Nsabimana, Generals Irategeka and Jeva jointly worked together to establish FNL as the armed wing of MRCD and jointly signed the communique announcing it in March 2018.
Court however said that considering that Nsabimana pleaded guilty to the charges and cooperated with court to provide more information, and the fact that he pleaded for the leniency of the court, he avoided a possible life sentence.
In other sentences, Col. Marc Nizeyimana, Cassien Bizimana, Jean Berchimas, Shabani Emmanuel, Ntibiramira Innocent, Byukusenge Jean Claude and Nsabimana Jean Damascène alias Motard, were sentenced to 20 years each.
Simeon Nikuze was sentence to 10 years while, Nsanzubukire Felicien alias Irakiza Fred, Munyaneza Anastase alias Job Kuramba and Hakizimana Théogène, got 5 years each, alongside Iyamuremye Emmanuel alias Engambe Iyamusumba, Niyirora Marcel alias BAMA Nicholas, Kwitonda André and the only female suspect in the case, Mukandutiye Angelina.
Ndagijimana Jean Chrétien, Nshimiyimana Emmanuel and Ntabanganyimana Joseph alias Combe Barume Matata were sentenced to 3 years in prison.