Col Byabagamba, Rtd Brig Gen Frank Rusagara apply for bail

On 22 May 2019 at 12:00

Col Tom Byabagamba, Rtd Brig Gen Frank Rusagara and Rtd Sgt Francois Kabayiza, who were sentenced by the Military High Court in 2016, have today appeared before the court of appeal where they appealed against previous verdicts.

They all cited ill-health conditions and applied for bail.

Byabagamba, who once headed the Republican Guards, was convicted of tarnishing the image of the state as a leader, public insurrection, illegal possession of firearms, contempt of coats of guards, denigrating the national flag while on duty in the South Sudanese capital Juba, and concealing evidence in a criminal case.

Rusagara was accused of public insurrection that amounted to tarnishing the image of the country and illegal possession of firearms, a crime for which he was jointly convicted with Byabagamba.

In March 2016, the Military High Court sentenced Col Tom Byabagamba to 21 years in jail and stripped him of his military rank while Brig Gen (rtd) Frank Rusagara was handed a 20-year jail sentence after they were both found guilty of charges against them.

The third suspect, Francois Kabayiza, was sentenced to five years in prison and charged Rwf 500,000 fines after he was absolved of the charge of illegal possession of firearms but convicted for a single charge of concealing objects which were used or meant to commit an offense.

They were all not satisfied with the ruling and vowed to appeal against the ruling.

Appearing before the Court of Appeal today, Col. Tom Byabagamba was in military uniform while Rtd. Brig, Gen. Frank Rusagara and Kabayiza were in green attire for military convicts.

Also present were 30 people of whom the majority ate relatives of convicts.

Rusagara was with his defense lawyer Buhuru Pierre Célèstin, Byabagamba defended by lawyer Gakunzi Valerie while Kabayiza had Munyandatwa Milton as his defense lawyer.

The presiding judge started reading identifications of convicts and alleged crimes. He explained that both convicts and the prosecution had concerns.

The prosecution said that during the verdict read on 31st March 2016, all convicts were present and signed the ruling as provided by law.

The prosecution alleged that the convicts didn’t provide reasons for their appeal that they were late to challenge the verdicts.

In response, Byabagamba said they already cited reasons for the appeal claiming they were not satisfied with court rulings.

“All reasons are related to that. Which other reason should be clearer than that? I think even when a person runs short of words in court, he must at least say a word to deny,” he said.

Gakunzi, the defense lawyer of Tom Byabagamba has said prosecution claims are unfounded and requested the court to disregard them.

Gakunzi defending Col. Byagamba requested the release of his client on bail during further trial proceeding.

Based on article 105 of the penal code, he said it is possible to request the release on bail regardless of any stage of the trial.

Among the reasons for a bail application, he cited that his client is spending almost five years in an isolated prison yet it was not ruled by the court.

Gakunzi said there is no other way to stop such torture except release on bail.

He explained that the client would not tamper investigations because testimonies were already recorded.

Col. Byabagamba also insisted on his release on bail because imprisonment in isolation inflicted much pain on him.

He said: “Science reveals that isolation is more dangerous on the body than smoking tobacco.”

Col. Byabagamba said he has a backache that it requires him to do physical exercises to regain health yet the cell doesn’t allow him to do so.

The two other co-accused and their defense lawyers also filed an application for bail, arguing that they were not in a position to tamper with any evidence against them and posed no threat to prosecution witnesses.

They cited sickness as one of the reasons for seeking bail and claimed that they are detained at Kanombe Military Barracks, instead of Mulindi military detention centre as the court had ruled. They claimed it put them into isolation from their families.

Considering the seriousness of their offenses, the prosecution opposed their bail application.

The court announced that the ruling on bail applications will be read on 31st May 2019.