Byabagamba, Rusagara petition Court of Appeal, seek bail

Rtd Brig Gen Frank Rusagara in court earlier today. / Emmanuel Kwizera

Col Tom Byabagamba, Rtd Brig Gen Frank Rusagara and Rtd Sgt Francois Kabayiza, who were sentenced to lengthy jail terms by the Military High Court three years ago, are back in court.

The three men on Wednesday appeared before the Court of Appeal challenging March 2016 verdicts by the Military High Court that saw Col. Byabagamba jailed for 21 years, Rusagara 20 years and Kabayiza 5 years. The court also stripped Byabagamba of his military rank. 

Byabagamba had been convicted of tarnishing the image of the State, public insurrection, illegal possession of firearms, contempt, and concealing evidence in a criminal case, while Rusagara was found guilty of instigating public insurrection and illegal possession of firearms.

Kabayiza, Rusagara’s former driver, was found guilty of concealing objects which were used or meant to commit an offence, but cleared him of the charge of illegal possession of firearms.  He has three months to complete his sentence.

During Wednesday’s hearing, the convicts prayed the court to overturn their convictions.

Meanwhile, the three men and their lawyers filed an application for bail, arguing that they were not in position to tamper with any evidence against them and posed no threat to prosecution witnesses.

Each of them cited ill-health as one of the grounds for seeking bail. They also said they are detained at Kanombe Military Barracks, instead of Mulindi military detention centre – as the Military High Court had directed – which had left them inaccessible to their families, thus feeling isolated.

However, prosecution opposed their bail application citing the seriousness of the offences committed and the weight of sentences in the case of Byabagamba and Rusagara.  

In the case of Kabayiza, prosecution challenged his claim that he needs urgent medical attention because he had never complained about any health issues throughout the duration of his imprisonment.

Military prosecution also said that the detention facility at Kanombe is an extension of Mulindi military prison and that the three men were entitled to receiving visitors contrary to their claims.

Besides the three men’s lawyers and journalists, the case was also attended by friends and families of the convicts.  

Byabagamba was in military fatigues complete with pips, while Rusagara and Kabayiza were in the traditional green attire for military prisoners.

Court set May 31 as the date when it will pronounce itself on the bail applications.