Rusesabagina in court on 13 charges: How the hearing progressed

On 22 September 2020 at 05:17

At 9: 30 am this Monday, Paul Rusesabagina arrived at the Kicukiro Primary Court for the first hearing. He is facing a number of charges including terrorism.

The 66 year old, arrived at the court premises in a RIB detainees van under tight security. Before attending the court proceedings, everybody was required to pass a COVID-19 test, and before passing the gate, there was someone checking the pandemic symptoms.

The Judge informed Rusesabagina that is suspected of 13 counts and asked him if he is pleading guilty but he refused to answer. Instead, he said that he has answered on every count during interrogation, before an investigator and a prosecutor.

However, he told the judges that he regrets the killings carried out by FLN belligerents in Nyaruguru, asking for forgiveness from the affected families and the nation.

The Proceedings

15:55: The judge says the hearing is completed and the Court is scheduled to pronounce on 17 September 2020 at 2:00 pm.

15:52: Rusesabagina was given an opportunity to speak and tells the court he has ailing health as proven by the three times he was taken to the hospital during the last two weeks, and assures the court that he will not escape once the provisional release is granted.

15:50: As for the bail, the Prosecution said that Mr. Rugaza did not know what he was asking for because during the interrogation he said that Rusesabagina is bailed out by a surety, and today he said that he would use a cash bond.

They said Mr. Rugaza should specify a cash bond bearing in mind the lives of the dead and the material damage. Prosecution prayed for his stay in custody.

15:30: Prosecution tells the court that Rusesabagina as a suspect, refusing to respond to each charge and saying he had no list of crimes while his lawyers had them, is evidence that he tried to avoid the interrogation.

The prosecution says the accused is mired into a lot of controversies, for though he said he regrets the FLN killings, his words are contrary as he is denying his role as the president of the MRCD, the mother organ of FLN.

The prosecution says it is not a question of whether he was sick or not, but the fact that he could stand before the court today for his trial means that he has been well treated since his arrival in Rwanda, treated, and taken to the doctor whenever he wanted.

The prosecutor says that while they were interrogating him, they had to suspend his interrogation so he could be taken to the hospital, therefore, being in custody cannot prevent Rusesabagina from accessing any medical attention he needs.

15:20: About the conversation between Rusesabagina and Twagiramungu, Mr. Rugaza said it should have been presented to the suspect so that he should answer on it. He insisted the defendant should be granted bail on account of his good conduct and that he had no prior convictions.

He said Rusesabagina was a good person, who had been given various awards as an honest person, therefore, the court should base on that to grant him bail.

15:00: The fact that the FLN has committed crimes, Rugaza said, should not be tied on Rusesabagina because the group was no longer affiliated with the MRDC, but that members of the group should be held accountable.

Rugaza said that in regards to the testimony of people injured in the FLN attacks and photos of the burnt vehicles, although Rusesabagina regrets, the court should consider whether any of their burns are related to the FLN activities.

15:00: Mr. Nyambo, one of Rusesabagina’s lawyers said his client should be released and tried as a free man because he was ill and, if necessary, he should be restricted to a certain area since his traveling documents were seized.

14:45: As for the audio and video that the prosecution claims to have, he said he wanted to check and see if it was him or not. In regard to other written documents demonstrating that he sent money to people in FLN, he said he had no knowledge of some of them.

"I have personally regretted and apologized to the families of those affected and to the country," he said, referring to the criminal activities committed in Nyaruguru.

14:40: Talking about the money he allegedly sent to Sinayobye, Rusesabagina said that he sent him three thousand euros because he "called me crying" and then sent him the money as a parent; that the money was not sent to the FLN.

In regard to the money his wife sent to Comoros, he said, was "sent to Sankara by my wife" because Sankara’s mother and his wife were neighbors in the same area. His wife allegedly sent Sankara money to help her child.

On the money he sent to Noel Habiyaremye, he said the same thing to the FBI and all investigative agencies. He said that by the time movie Hotel Rwanda was released, many Rwandans, refugees, thought that he had become a millionaire; that everyone sought him out individually, at that time he had not entered politics.

14:25: When asked if he pleaded guilty, Rusesabagina said he had discussed the allegations during the investigation and had responded to each case.
He said he would like to voice his thoughts as soon as the trial begins in substance.

“The questions I answered were not many, one is that I helped FLN, I said yes I helped FLN, I gave 20 thousand euros,” he said. The fact that he gave them the money and the used it for their killings, he said that it was not the agreement he shared with the FLN.

14:24: The prosecutor said that if Rusesabagina was released, he would escape justice based on the gravity of the crimes he is suspected of; also, he was arrested after a long search, so if he was released it would not be easy to find him again.

In addition, he is well-aware that Belgium investigated him the same as the FBI in the United States, with regard to financing terrorist groups, so keeping him behind bars looks to be the only way to prevent him from tampering with the evidence and pressuring witnesses, or to meet other suspects in Belgium for treason.

14:15: The prosecutor said 82 children that made statements and their testimony showed that they had been abducted and taken to militia services in violation of Rwandan and international law.

He said there were medical records showing that nine people had been killed in the FLN terrorist attacks in Nyabimata and Cyitabi Sectors and all of them had died as a result of the attacks.

14:00: The prosecutor said there were various documents provided to Rwanda by the Belgian Police indicating the amount of money that had been sent by Rusesabagina, which was provided by the Western Union.

Some of the money sent to Madagascar and Comores to Nsabimana Callixte and others to FLN fighters in the DRC.

13:45: As the serious reasons for Rusesabagina to remain in custody, the prosecution recounted every one of his 13 charges.

• On the charge of the formation of an irregular armed group or joining it: The prosecutor relied on a statement from the FLN stating that it was a group formed by the MRCD, made by its former spokesman, Nsabimana Callixte.

He talked about Rusesebagina’s footage where he and Twagiramungu Faustin were discussing on the FLN establishment, and a two-page document found in Rusesabagina’s computer in a search conducted by the Belgian police at his home in 2019.

Another reason the prosecution relies on is the statements of FLN soldier Col Nizeyimana Marc describing how the FLN was set up, Sankara’s statement, and Paul Rusesabagina’s statement confirming that he went to the FLN but did not create it.

• On charges of financing terrorism, the prosecution said the reason for keep Rusesabagina in detention was based on an interview with Wilson Irategeka on May 19, 2019, in which Irategeka accuses Rusesabagina of trying to divide the army [called farmers] with money.

This was based on the fact that Rusesabagina had sent Gen Sinayobye Bernabe three thousand dollars. It is also alleged that Rusesabagina’s wife sent 1,000 euros to Comoros, at this time the money was sent to Nsabimana Callexte alias Sankara.

13:30: The prosecution was given the floor and they are praying to the court that the accused be remanded in custody on the ground of all the crimes he is suspected of. He said the alleged activities of Rusesabagina began in 2009 when as the leader of the PDR Ihumure party; Rusesbagina approached Lt Col Habiyaremye Noel, formerly known as Banga Banza Lambert.

He was a member of the FDLR terrorist group, urging them to join him together with his FDLR fighters. The prosecutor said that Habiyaremye later went to Burundi and Rusesabagina kept sending him money. The money was alleged to form a military unit against the Rwandan government.

Because of the good relations between Rwanda and Burundi at the time, Habiyaremye was arrested and sent to Rwanda, where he then spoke about his cooperation with Rusesabagina.

Rusesabagina later worked with Gen Wilson Irategeka who founded CNRD Ubwiyunge. They later formed the FLN and were joined the RRM party of Nsabimana Callixte alias Sankara.

They added another party to the coalition, Rwanda Rwiza led by Faustin Twagiramungu; in order to work together. They all shared a common plan to overthrow the government in Rwanda. The plan was to be achieved by using force, the reason why they founded the FLN. The MRCD was a four-party coalition, with the FLN as its military wing.

13:15: After examining all the objections raised, the court ruled that the arrest of Rusesabagina in the Nyarugunga Sector which is in the territory of Kicukiro Primary Court, ordering the trial to proceed immediately.

13:10: The court is set to announce its decision on the objections raised by Rusesabagina’s lawyers. Both parties have returned to the waiting pending a hearing.

The 13 crimes of which Rusesabagina is accused of:

• Formation of an irregular armed group or joining it

• Financing terrorism

• Terrorism for political purposes

• Committing and participating in terrorist acts

• Giving orders in a terrorist act

• Membership of a terrorist group

• Conspiracy and incitement to commit a terrorist act

• Complicity voluntary murder

• Complicity in taking a person hostage

• Complicity in armed robbery

• Complicity in arson

• Complicity in assault or battery;

• Complicity in children in warfare or other military activities

11:05: The judge said the court would examine in private, which they will resume at 1 p.m., announcing decisions taken in regards to the objections identified by the defense lawyers.

10:50: The prosecutor said Rusesabagina could not be separated from the FLN’s actions because he himself said he regretted it when he was questioned by the prosecution. They said that Rusesabagina did not donate as to a charity when he sponsored the FLN, adding that during his interrogation he said, "I financed the FLN with 20,000 euros", and that the FLN was not a charitable organization.

10:45: Me. Rugaza said the $ 900 Rusesabagina donated was not the money someone can use to attack the country.

10:40: The prosecutor said Rusesabagina admitted that he had acted as a Rwandan and there is no surprise that even as a foreigner can be prosecuted by Rwandan courts.

The prosecutor said Rusesabagina had every right to his freedom of speech, but when one goes on the radio or television and points out that the FLN, affiliate to the MRCD of which he was the rightful President started attacks in Rwanda, that should be called freedom of speech.

In addition, the fact that Rusesabagina acknowledged that some of the money he donated to the FLN was used to assassinate Rwandans, should not be considered a freedom of speech while supporting people who want to kill Rwandans.

10:35: As for Me Rugaza’s claim that Rusesabagina is in court as a Belgian, the Prosecutor stated that in his interrogation he admitted that he had Belgian citizenship and that anyone who committed a crime in Rwandan territory should be prosecuted regardless of his nationality. That means Rwandan courts have the power to prosecute him.

10:30: The prosecutor insisted that arguing on the jurisdiction of the court is unfounded because the law on the jurisdiction of the courts, the primary courts were the ones that had jurisdiction over the trial of detention and provisional release.

He said Rusesabagina had been arrested in the territory of Kicukiro Primary Court, and that is where he should be tried.

Regarding the fact that Rusesabagina had a building in Nyarutarama, the Prosecutor said the fact that he had bought the plot and built it did not mean that he lived in it or that he was arrested there. “It does not mean that he was living there at the time of his arrest, nor was he there at the time of his arrest,” they said mentioning that during the interrogation, Rusesabagina said he lived in Belgium.

10:25: His lawyer went on to say that Rusesabagina’s charges were not right because some were attributed to other political parties not his own, saying that everyone should be held accountable for his actions.

10:15: Rugaza said Rusesabagina had never set foot on Rwandan soil so as to be suspected of involvement in the 2018 crimes. He added that from 1996 to 1999, Rusesabagina had no citizenship, and at the time the documents he was using were given to him by the United Nations. It was in 1999 that he was granted Belgian citizenship.

Me Rugaza said the prosecution cited a meeting he had held in the United States, said that as a Belgian citizen, his country looked at what he said and found it to be a freedom of expression, so nothing he should be accused as a Belgian.

He said the FBI also in the United States called him and saw that the meeting he addressed itself was based on freedom of expression. With reference to the Rwanda Penal code of 2012, Rusesabagina shouldn’t be accused of anything because what he did was exercising his freedom of expression.

10:09: One of Rusesabagina’s defense team, Mr. Rugaza David, began by saying that there were objections, referring to the jurisdiction of the Kicukiro Primary Court to try his client. He said that only the Primary court where the man lived had jurisdiction to try his cases of provisional detention and release.

He said that in 2004 when Paul Rusesabagina lastly came to Rwanda, bought a plot of land in Nyarutarama, so that should be considered as his residence. That means he should be sent to the Gasabo Primary Court and be tried there instead of in the Kicukiro Primary Court.

10:00: The court began by reading Rusesabagina’s profile, and when asked if the profile they read belonged to him, and he replied, "That’s right." The judge read the crimes he is accused of and asked if he heard them, his response was "I heard."

The judge said that Paul Rusesabagina is the son of Rupfure Thomas and Nyirampara Keiza, born on June 15, 1954, in Nyakabungo Cell, Nkomero Sector, Murama Commune, Gitarama Prefecture; it’s now in Ruhango District, Southern Province. He said he lives in Belgium in the Kraainem-Banlieu area of Brussels where he has Rwandan and Belgian citizenship. He is married to Mukangamije Tatiana and is a hotelier.

Rusesabagina was paraded in front of the media on August 31, 2020, RIB explained that he was arrested at Kigali International Airport and arrived in Kigali voluntarily, contrary to reports that say he had been abducted in Dubai. On the other hand, there are reports that Rusesabagina arrived in Dubai on August 27, 2020, at 7:10 p.m.

Unconfirmed reports say that he left Al Maktoum Airport in Dubai on a private jet of the Bombardier Challenger 605 of GainJet, late in the night and arrived in Kigali on Friday morning.

Rusesabagina Paul talks to Me Emeline Nyambo, one of his two lawyers
Emeline Nyembo and David Rugaza are Paul Rusesabagina's lawyers