The 25 suspects linked to a terror outfit with military bases in the Democratic Republic of Congo on Monday morning arrived at the Military Tribunal in Nyamirambo for the resumption of their pre-trial hearing.
The trial had earlier been adjourned at the request the suspects who said they needed more time to be able to get lawyers before the hearing on their bail could continue.
The accused have been availed with lawyers, with the senior-most suspect, Maj (rtd) Habib Madhatiru having his own lawyer, Paula Umulisa.
UPDATE: Twenty three of the suspected RNC militia are represented by 12 lawyers collectively.— The New Times (Rwanda) (@NewTimesRwanda) October 14, 2019
Rtd. Major Habibu Mudhatiru (pictured??) is represented by one lawyer while another suspect chose to defend himself. #RNCTrial pic.twitter.com/71bzgNCpS3
Three of the suspects are represented by Dismas Butera but according to them, they have not yet had a chance to meet with him to discuss their defence.
Military prosecution had earlier on suggested that they adjourn to allow for all suspects to have access to their lawyers, saying that legal counsel is a right that is enjoyed by all the accused under the Rwanda laws.
However, the presiding judge said that in the interest of time, court would proceed with those that have their lawyers present.
At least 11 lawyers are present in court to represent a group of 20 suspects.
One suspect told court he will represent himself and therefore will needing services of a lawyer during the trial.
All the suspects were captured in a military operation by Congolese forces (FARDC).
They each face four charges of forming and being part of an irregular armed group, treason, conspiracy against an established government and maintaining relations with a foreign government.
UPDATE: Major(rtd) Habib Madhatiru, is represented by lawyer, Paula Umulisa.— The New Times (Rwanda) (@NewTimesRwanda) October 14, 2019
Umulisa: We need to understand what civilians are doing in a military court. My client is no longer a military man, he is retired. What exactly is he doing in this court? #RNCTrial
The suspects are majority Rwandan but they include foreign nationals; Ugandans, Burundians and one Malawian.
The combatants are part of ‘P5’ an outfit created out of a merger of different anti-Rwanda negative forces that include RNC and FDLR among others.
During the initial hearing the military prosecution said that all the suspects were facilitated mainly by Uganda and Burundi to join the ‘P5’ outfit whose activities are detailed in a report by the UN Group of Experts published in December last year.
Led by South Africa-based fugitive Kayumba Nyamwasa, RNC is a terrorist organisation blamed for a spate of grenade attacks in Rwanda between 2010 and 2014 that killed at least 17 people and injured over 400 others.
Kayumba is a fugitive from the Rwandan justice, having been tried in absentia, convicted and sentenced to 24 years in prison.