The substantive trial of the case involving 32 terror suspects linked to Rwanda National Congress (RNC) and affiliated militia groups, continued yesterday September 15, at the Military High Court in Kanombe, Kicukiro District.
All the suspects but one, were present in the courtroom, which had temporarily shifted to a privately-owned hall near the court to allow for social distancing because of the big number of suspects.
Majority of the suspects were fighting for an irregular armed group calling itself P.5 which was formed through a joint efforts by different outfits, including RNC, which is led by Kayumba Nyamwasa.
Kayumba is also the head of the P5 outfit, which featured prominently in a UN report by a group of experts on DR Congo, released in December 2018.
The only suspect who was absent during Tuesday’s hearing is Private Jean Bosco Ruhinda who is still at large.
Majority of the group – 25 of them – were captured in combat last year during an offensive by the DR Congo armed forces, and later handed over to Rwandan authorities.
Other suspects, who include active servicemen within Rwanda Defence Force (RDF) were arrested in Rwanda after an investigation led linked them to these militia outfits.
At the onset, the presiding judge, Lt Col Bernard Rugamba Hategekimana said that for better time management, they would tackle one count at a time, starting with the charge of intentionally forming and being part of an irregular armed group or joining it.
During the hearing that took the better part of the day, court heard from 11 suspects, many of whom claimed to have been lured into the outfit by Maj (rtd) Habib Mudathiru.
Mudathiru, who was also present in court, was the head of operations in P5 and was captured among the 25 in DR Congo.
Diogene Bihoyiki noted that he was lured into DR Congo from Burundi where he was working in a restaurant with promises with a promise that he was going to earn $500 from working in a mining concession.
“I was surprised to find out that I was joining armed terror group “P5” and I later tried to flee but couldn’t succeed,” he said.
His lawyer, Salem Nshuti, interjected, saying that his client only found himself in circumstances under which he could not easily get himself out of.
Many of the suspects, especially those in the group from DR Congo, pinned Mudathiru – a retired officer in RDF – saying that he exerted terror on them and threatened to kill anyone who attempts to escape.
However, prosecution countered claims by Bihoyiki, saying that he was a key fighter for the outfit, who had taken several trainings, adding that his claims that he was just on a bandwagon were not genuine.
Another suspect, Patrick Nsanzimana, who served in the group as a medic, also claimed to have been unknowingly lured into the outfit.
“I was surprised to arrive there (in DR Congo) and being told that the group had a mission of overthrowing the ruling government of Rwanda within five days,” he said.
The outfit operates in eastern DR Congo and many of the suspects were recruited from different countries, including Uganda and Burundi.
During previous sessions, the suspects also pinned both countries of working closely with the anti-Rwanda outfits.
Last year, Mudathiru, who was injured during the offensive with the Congolese military, pleaded guilty of all charges against him, just like all members of the group.
Mudhatiru is also expected to stand before the court on Wednesday after he was skipped on Tuesday, when his lawyer delayed to get to court.
After all suspects have been given opportunity to answer this particular charge, they will proceed to other counts.
Other charges include; treason, conspiracy against an established government or the President of the Republic and maintaining relations with a foreign government with the intent to wage a war and formation of or joining a criminal group.
Earlier, at the beginning of the hearing, the presiding judge said the case had been delayed by the outbreak of coronavirus, saying that the number of suspects made it difficult for the trial to be heard remotely.Follow lavie250