Lt. Mutabazi seeks bail from Court of Appeal

The Court of Appeal on Tuesday analysed briefs by Lt. Joel Mutabazi who seeking bail as he challenges a 2014 verdict by the Military High Court that handed him a life sentence.

The court had found him guilty of crimes related to terrorism, setting up an armed group, spreading rumours with the intention of inciting the public to rise up against the state, murder, crimes against the state, illegal possession of a firearm and deserting the military.

Mutabazi and his two lawyers, Antoinette Mukamusoni and Jean de Dieu Amani, told court that he appealed against the sentence because he thought it was unfair.

He added that he was critically ill and his life was in danger because he was not accessing medicine regularly, not well fed and was being jailed in poor conditions.

“I challenged the ruling at the Court of Appeal because the Military High Court sentenced me for crimes I did not commit,” Mutabazi told the three-judge bench chaired by Aimé Kalimunda Muyoboke.

He said he suffered from Hepatitis, High Blood Pressure and eye disease among other conditions he said he could not mention in public.

For some diseases he said he is required to pay medication for himself which he said he could not afford such as the Rwf85,000 he needs to buy eyeglasses.

Mutabazi’s lawyer, Amani, said there was no reason to detain Mutabazi and keep him in poor condition as he appealed adding that he was innocent and deserved bail.

"As long as Mutabazi has not exhausted the legal procedures in his trial, much as the crimes he faces are serious. He remains eligible for bail and this should be motivated by his poor health,” he said.

However, the prosecution dismissed Mutabazi’s plea for bail saying that he committed serious crimes that attract a sentence beyond 5 years.

The military prosecutor said that Mutabazi receives medical treatment on daily basis and can access free medicine whenever he cannot afford it himself.  

As for a special diet, the prosecutor said that Mutabazi has never requested for it.

“It is his responsibility to request for a special diet and he has never done that,” said the prosecutor.

Kalimunda told prosecution to work with the concerned institutions to help Mutabazi get eyeglasses as soon as possible to be able to work with the lawyers in drafting submissions.

The president, therefore, ordered Mutabazi and his lawyers to submit their appeal by June 21 and the prosecution to react on appellant’s submission by June 26. The bail ruling is set for June 26.

Mutabazi was sentenced to life in jail together 13 others who were convicted various sentences including one, Joseph Nshimiyimana, a former member of Forces Democratiques de Liberation du Rwanda (FDLR) who was sentenced to life in jail as well.

13 other co-accused were sentenced to various prison terms, ranging from four months to 25 years for crimes related to terrorism and murder, some of those convicted also appealed against the sentences while two were acquitted.