Prosecution witnesses make U-turn in Col. Bayigana trial

NYARUGENGE - Three key prosecution witnesses called to testify against Col. Firmin Bayingana for allegedly ordering them to release a detained suspect turned against military prosecutors and denied receiving orders from the accused senior officer.
Colonel Firmin Bayingana
Colonel Firmin Bayingana

NYARUGENGE - Three key prosecution witnesses called to testify against Col. Firmin Bayingana for allegedly ordering them to release a detained suspect turned against military prosecutors and denied receiving orders from the accused senior officer.

Col. Bayingana, former Commandant of Rwanda Defence Forces Marines, is accused of peddling influence in securing the provisional release of businessman Leon Ngandu Munyaburanga.

Last week the military tribunal ordered prosecution to bring witnesses it cited in its charge sheet, mainly Gisenyi prison authorities to testify in court as to whether indeed they received orders to release the businessman.

Those summoned included Alloys Rujambi, former Director of Gisenyi prison, his secretary Consolee Gasengayire and Fred Mwesigye the chief warden at the same prison.

“I followed the laws while releasing (Leon) Ngandu, it was only some time later that I learnt there were preconditions we had not followed,” said Rujambi.

Considered to be the key witness in the case, Rujambi is suspected by Military Prosecution of having been subject to pressure from Col. Bayingana in granting an immediate release to Munyaburanga.

Military Prosecutor Faustin Mukunzi had insisted that the prison director would have first checked whether the conditions were fulfilled before releasing the suspect, but both Rujambi and his secretary told court that it was not under their duties to make sure the conditions were met beforehand.

Gasengayire told court that she never saw Bayingana at the prison premises the day Munyaburanga was released as alleged, further downplaying the alleged pressure he exerted on the prisons officials to effect the release.

Former prison warden Mwesigye also concurred with Gasengayire saying that the RDF Senior Officer was not among the people who came to the prison during the release of the suspect.

Prosecutor Mukunzi however maintained that there could have been some kind of manipulation as he judged witnesses were giving testimonies that differ from what they had given in their written statements during investigations.

Both Bayingana and his lawyer Charles Shema underlined that there was no proof to charge the accused with influence peddling, and pleaded with the court to take the right decision by “not condemning someone who is actually innocent.”

The exercise presided over by Brigadier General Karyango ruled that the verdict will be pronounced on July 30.

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