Byimana fires: Teenage suspects appear in court

SIX teenagers accused of being the authors of three fires which gutted Byimana School of Sciences’ between April and June have appeared before Muhanga Intermediate Court.
Students stare at what remained of a dormitory after one of the fires gutted Byimana School of Sciences. The New Times/ File.
Students stare at what remained of a dormitory after one of the fires gutted Byimana School of Sciences. The New Times/ File.

SIX teenagers accused of being the authors of three fires which gutted Byimana School of Sciences’ between April and June have appeared before Muhanga Intermediate Court.

The teenagers, all senior one and two male students, are aged between 14 and 16.

They are accused of hatching a plan to set the school on fire and executing it. The trial was held behind closed doors last week. Judge Bernadette Mukansanga justified the decision, saying there was need to protect the children’s identities.

Subsequently, journalists, parents and other people were asked to leave the courtroom before the hearing started.

Only four of the six students were in court during the hearing; the two others are under 14 and will be sent to a rehabilitation centre, a source at the court said. 

The defence team is made of five lawyers.

After the hearing, Me Viateur Ndagijimana, one of the five lawyers of the defence team, declined to give details of the trial. He only said: “There is nothing to worry about. Justice will prevail.”

A source who was in court when the hearing was underway but asked not to be named, told The New Times after the hearing that the young boys pleaded guilty to the charges.

When the hearing ended, the suspects appeared outside the court handcuffed. Tears rolled in their eyes and they seemed very scared.

Their parents, who were seen outside the court, declined to comment when approached. Some of them were seen shedding tears as armed police officers escorted the children back to their cells.

The judge is expected to deliver the ruling on June 27.

Byimana School of Sciences suffered three fire incidents in less than 40 days in which three dormitories and a chapel were destroyed. Reconstruction, to cost Rwf700 million has already kicked off.

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