The trial of 32 people accused of plotting acts of terrorism against Rwanda took a new twist Wednesday, September 16, with the prime suspect, Maj (rtd) Habib Mudathiru, rejecting the submissions of his co-accused.
Eleven terror suspects had earlier told court that Mudathiru had held them hostage in P5 militia bases in eastern DR Congo.
The 11 are part of the 25 suspects who were captured in combat with Congolese soldiers before they were handed over to Rwanda mid-last year.
During Tuesday’s proceedings at the Military High Court in Nyarugunga, many suspects had said they wished to escape from the militia after realising its true intentions but couldn’t because they were constantly monitored by Mudathiru himself.
Mudathiru was the head of operations of the militia group, which is led by South Africa-based fugitive Kayumba Nyamwasa.
A retired RDF officer, Mudathiru is still nursing wounds he sustained in the offensive that led to his capture more than a year ago.
When his turn to defend himself came on Wednesday, Mudathiru rejected the submissions of his former subordinates, arguing that, while desertion was prohibited, militants always found a way to escape.
“They had freedom to move, for instance whenever they were going to buy food or to do other errands. Indeed, those who wanted to escape took advantage of that freedom and would escape with ease,” he said.
He denied that he took anyone hostage.
Many of the accused claimed that they had been lured into the terror group with promises of lucrative jobs in the Congo, only to get there and be told that they were going to fight to ‘liberate’ Rwanda.
Military prosecutor Capt. Bernard Kayumba also challenged the assertions of the 11 former militants, pointing out that there were many fighters that abandoned the militia and returned home to Rwanda on their own.
“There is no shred of truth in the claims of the accused and their lawyers,” he said. For instance, he added, “we have records of many former members of terror groups based in DR Congo who escaped due to different reasons and are now in Rwanda, they were not taken to court because they repatriated voluntarily,” he said, naming some of them.
He added: “If they had wanted to denounce the terror group, as they claim, they would have done so before their capture. They didn’t have to wait to be captured.”
Last year, Mudathiru pleaded guilty to all charges against him, so did all the other members of the group.
Mudathiru maintains his plea.
However, his co-accused would later seek to be cleared of the charge of intentionally forming and joining a terror group, which is the charge on which all suspects are taking plea before they can move on to other charges.
The other charges include; treason, conspiracy against an established government or the President of the Republic, maintaining relations with a foreign government with the intent to wage a war, and formation of or joining a criminal group.
One of the suspects, Private Jean Bosco Ruhinda, is at large.
Besides the 25 militants who were extradited from the Congo, the rest are alleged collaborators who were arrested within the country and they include active servicemen of Rwanda Defence Force and civilians.
The militia group, P5, brings together several anti-Kigali groupings, including Kayumba’s RNC.
The armed group featured prominently in a UN report by a group of experts on DR Congo, released in December 2018.
It recruited some of its fighters from Uganda and Burundi, both of which have been implicated by the suspects in a plot to destabilise Rwanda.Follow lavie250