By Hudson Kuteesa
More MRCD-FLN terror suspects on Thursday, June 17, learned of the punishments that prosecution is seeking for them, which varied depending on the individual role in the crimes alleged and how the accused conducted themselves in the ongoing trial at the High Court Chamber for International and Cross-Border Crimes.
The trial continued with prosecutors giving final submissions in the case using the format that was used throughout the substantive trial, where they tackle each of the 21 suspects at a time, starting with Callixte Nsabimana, the first suspect in the group to be taken into custody.
After seeking 25 years for Sankara on Wednesday, prosecutors continued Thursday with other suspects beginning with Paul Rusesabagina, the founding president of the group that is being charged with committing murders on Rwandan territory.
For Rusesabagina, who had once again skipped the hearing, prosecution asked court to give him life sentence – the heaviest punishment under Rwandan penal regime – owing to his position in the outfit and the fact that he never showed any remorse for the crimes committed.
At least nine lives were lost in the attacks by FLN militia elements during their attacks in the southwestern part of the country between 2018 and 2019. Several others were injured and property was destroyed.
The other suspect for whom prosecution sought life sentence was ‘Colonel’ Marc Nzeyimana, a deputy sector commander of the outfit with prosecutors saying that his command position and lack of remorse were the main motivation behind their request.
He was also charged with being the brains behind the attacks in Nyungwe National Park after he was pinned by many co-accused of having had the role of selecting the most effective militia members to constitute the attacking party.
“Besides being a leader in the FLN where he worked as a deputy sector commander, he played a serious role in the attacks as he was the one who did a triage to select the ablest fighters to cross into Rwanda on a mission of carrying out the attacks,” prosecutor Claudine Dushimimana.
In connection with the attacks, Nizeyimana faces nine counts, including joining an illegal armed group, being part of a terror group, committing battery as an act of terror, being an accessory to murder as an act of terror, armed robbery as an act of terror, arson as an act of terror, among others.
In his defence in earlier stages of the trial, he pleaded guilty to only one charge of joining an illegal armed group. He denied the rest, and this is one of the main reasons that made the prosecutors ask for a big penalty for him, saying there should not be any mitigating circumstances since he did not admit to the crimes he committed.
The prosecuting team, which is led by Angelique Habyarimana, the Deputy Prosecutor General, also touched on the sentencing of Cassien Bizimana, Jean-Berchmans Matakamba and Emmanuel Shaban with the trio being key in organizing attacks that specifically took place in Rusizi District.
For Bizimana, prosecution asked court to jail him for 25 years. He was a key figure in the FLN attacks in Rusizi, where he, among other things smuggled weapons like grenades and guns into Rwandan territory. These were used against civilians on several occasions, and many were injured.
He faces a number of charges including: being part of a terror group, conspiring and encouraging others to commit terror, illegal use of explosives in public places, being an accessory to committing murder as an act of terror, arson as an act of terror, among others.
Likewise, a 25-year jail term was requested for Shaban, a man who worked as a guide for Bizimana on his journey to smuggle weapons into Rwanda. In addition, he is also accused of encouraging other people to join terror activities – particularly his brother Simeon Nikuzwe who is also being tried for the same crimes.
A similar prison sentence (25 years) was asked for Matakamba, who is accused of storing smuggled weapons from Bizimana, and mobilising people to join FLN’s terror activities, as well as being part of some of the attacks in Rusizi.
He is charged with: conspiring and encouraging others towards terror activities, being part of a terror group and taking part in its activities, being part of an illegal armed group, illegal use of explosives in public space, among others.
Court will continue tomorrow with prosecution continuing with the final submissions on each suspect, after which the accused will be given the opportunity to make their concluding submissions.
Source New Times.