By Jean d’Amour Mbonyinshuti
As 21 terror suspects belonging to MRCD-FLN appeared before the Higher Court Special Chamber for International and Cross-Border Crimes on Friday Paul Rusesabagina presented again an objection that ‘he was kidnapped and was illegally being detained.
Rusesabagina who is considered the prime terror suspect having been the leader of the MRCD outfit that formed FLN army wing was accompanied by one of his two lawyers Felix Rudakemwa.
Rusesabagina says that he is a Belgian with Rwanda origin and that he denounced Rwandan citizenship.
He previously challenged Rwandan courts legal jurisdiction to try him of any crime but the court ruled against his objection citing he allegedly committed crimes on Rwandan soil and it had the power to try him regardless of his Belgian nationality by Naturalisation
He faces nine crimes including the formation of an irregular armed group, membership of a terrorist group, financing terrorism, murder as an act of terrorism, abduction as an act of terrorism, and armed robbery as an act of terrorism.
In yesterday’s hearing, Rusesabagina’s objection was rejected again with the prosecution saying he legally came to Rwanda and was facilitated by his friend, ‘Bishop’ Consitatin Niwemwungere who Burundian and a Belgian by Naturalization.
The prosecution prayed for the court to first listen to Niwemwungere on how and why he facilitated Rusesabagina’s arrival in Kigali saying it could be very important to justify the groundless of his objection.
The court okayed it. Niwemwungere was present in the court and, clad in a black suit with a clergy collar, he took the stage.
Efforts to meet Burundian authorities over terror plans
He said he first met Rusesabagina in 2017 when a mutual friend brought them together. They befriended as well.
Later Rusesabagina told Niwemwungere that he was a Politian and a founder of MRCD political party with FLN army group.
“He asked me to link him up with Burundian authorities,” he told the court.
He went on telling the court that he linked Rusesabagina up with an official from Burundian Embassy in Belgium.
The court heard that Rusesabagina wanted to meet Burundian authorities to discuss ways to use Burundi as a base for FLN army group to attack Rwanda and any other support the country could offer.
In several instances, FLN attacked Rwanda from Burundi through Nyungwe forest and it killed innocent lives where at least nine people were killed, others injured while properties were destroyed.
Niyomwungere was shocked when heard on the radio that MRCD-FLN carried out armed attacks in Rwanda and that innocent lives had lost.
“I asked Rusesabagina whether it was true and he admitted the reports. He told me that he was not bothered by innocent lives that succumbed to his militia group’s attacks, but rather, the fact that it claimed responsibility,” he said.
By then, FLN’s spokesperson was Callixte Nsabimana also known as Sankara and he told the media that FLN was behind the attacks. NSabimana is also in the same court.
“As a bishop, I was shocked and regretted being connected to such a person,” he said.
The Rwanda Investigation Bureau (RIB) had been kin to follow up Rusesabagina and Niwemwungere’s exchanges and recorded it all.
And when ‘Bishop’ Niwemwungeri came to Rwanda for work-related purposes, he was called by RIB agent who interrogated him and informed him that the investigation bureau had convincing evidence he was collaborating with Rusesabagina and planned to attack Rwanda.
“The officer among others showed me images of people who succumbed to FLN’s attacks and victims of the atrocities. I allowed to cooperate with RIB and bring Rusesabagina to justice.” He said.
Among the intercepted messages, there was one requesting Niwemwungeri to accompany Rusesabagina to Burundi to meet Burundian officials and his army group there.
I agreed to cooperate
It was not until when Niwemwungere realized that all the steps and attempts with Rusesabagina were known that he decided to cooperate with the Rwandan Investigation Bureau agents to bring Rusesabagina to Rwanda for him to face justice.
Niyomwungere said that they talked when he was in Kenya while Rusesabagina was in the United States.
But the terror suspect proposed him to pass through Dubai before boarding another plane to Burundi. Rusesabagina was aware of pending arrest warrant against him and feared using either European or African route.
“He found me in Dubai, and I had told him that there was a private jet that would take us to our destination-Burundi,” he noted.
Niyomwungere said he lied to Rusesabagina about the jet’s destination so as to get him apprehended but the rest in the plane news they were going to Kigali, the capital of Rwanda.
“When the plane landed in Rwanda, we disembarked and found RIB officers waiting for us, Rusesabagina was immediately handed an arrest warrant,” he added.
However, Rusesabagina and his lawyer rejected the bishop’s statements saying it was not founded and prayed to the court to consider their objection of the alleged kidnapping.
Meanwhile, Rusesabagina’s co-accused have asked the court to look at ways to proceed with the hearing taking into account that all the suspects were equal before the court.
They said Rusesabagina and his lawyers were intentionally delaying the court.
“There have been three hearings and all have rotated around one suspect; Rusesabagina. The court should pronounce itself on a clear roadmap of the trial and should penalize whoever wants to deviate,” Moise Nkundabarashi, the lawyer of Nsabimana,
Presiding Judge Antoine Muhima adjourned the case to March 10 at 2 pm, when the court will deliver a ruling on the objection.