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Monday, 6 October 2014

Kagame’s bodyguard sentenced to life

Kagame’s bodyguard sentenced to life

Lt Joel Mutabazi
Lt Joel Mutabazi  
By Ignatius Ssuuna

Posted  Sunday, October 5   2014 at  01:00
In Summary
Lt Joel Mutabazi was also convicted for murder, illegal possession of a firearm and deserting the military. 

Kigali- Rwandan president Paul Kagame’s former bodyguard has been sentenced to life in prison by a military court in Kigali for involvement in terrorism, forming an armed group and attempting to incite the public against the state.
Lt Joel Mutabazi was sentenced together with his co-accused Joseph Nshimiyimana. Lt Mutabazi was also convicted for murder, illegal possession of a firearm and deserting the military.
The military court also ruled that Lt Mutabazi be stripped of his military rank.
The ruling on Friday finally put to rest Lt Mutabazi’s trial which had taken nearly nine months. The trial was characterised by testimony retractions by the suspect. The military judge, Maj Bernard Rugamba Hakizimana, found him guilty on all the charges.
The Israeli- trained commando fled the country in October 2011 and sought refuge in Kampala after alleging persecution in Kigali.
Lt Mutabazi was arrested in Kampala in 2013 and his controversial extradition to Kigali under dubious circumstances made headlines in the media and attracted attention of rights groups in the region and of the diplomatic corps.
During the trial last month, Lt Mutabazi reiterated his earlier plea of “not guilty” on all the charges. He told the military court that the confession statements he had made during interrogations were extracted under duress.

He had requested court not to consider the request of the prosecution who sought life imprisonment for him.
He argued that the main evidence relied on by the military prosecution were statements he made during the interrogation process, during which he admitted almost all the charges.
When he first appeared in court in November last year, Lt Mutabazi disowned the confessions.
“How can people who forcefully kidnapped me from Uganda fail to use all force at their disposal to make me write a statement confessing to crimes I never committed?” Lt Mutabazi pondered in court.
He denied deserting the army as prosecutors alleged but said he fled the country to save his life, which was being threatened.
He said he had been detained incommunicado at Kami Military Barracks for about 17 months and subjected to torture. He said that upon his release, he was not allowed to reunite with his family and was instead taken to another detention facility.
It was not clear how Lt Mutabazi, who was under the care of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), ended up in custody of the Uganda police who later handed him over to the Rwanda government security operatives.
Police from both countries had earlier alleged that Lt Mutabazi had been on Kigali’s wanted list over an alleged bank robbery in 2011. But Rwandan police later said investigations had linked him to new charges including grenade attacks in Kigali.
He previously claimed political persecution by the Kigali government and had sought asylum in Uganda, which had been granted. His eligibility for refugee status was still under review although the Office of the Prime Minister in Uganda and the UNHCR office were managing his welfare.

 At the time of his extradition, Mr Douglas Asiimwe, a senior refugee protection officer in the Office of the Prime Minister in Uganda, said Lt Mutabazi was “kidnapped” without their knowledge, a claim both countries denied.

He lived with his family at Sky Hotel in Naalya, a Kampala suburb, before he was arrested and extradited.

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Kagame bodyguard sentenced to life

Publish Date: Oct 07, 2014
Kagame bodyguard sentenced to life
Rwandan President Paul Kagame. AFP Photo
By Steven Candia and Agencies

A former bodyguard of Rwanda's Paul Kagame was sentenced to life in prison for his alleged involvement in a series of crimes among them terrorism.

Joel Mutabazi who was also accused of forming an armed group and attempting to incite the public against the state, contested the decision saying he had been kidnapped and would appeal.

Mutabazi was sentenced alongside his co-accused Joseph Nshimiyimana by the military court which also ruled that Mutabazi be stripped of his rank.

Mutabazi was also convicted of being an accomplice in grenade attacks that killed two people in a Kigali market last year in coordination with exiled opposition groups.

Mutabazi however said he was kidnapped last October in Uganda, where he had refugee status, and brought back to Rwanda to stand trial. Human Rights Watch said last year his "forcible return raises grave concerns".

The judge in Kigali found Mutabazi and Nshimiyimana guilty of plotting to kill the president. The prosecution said the Rwanda National Congress, an opposition group based in South Africa, had offered the men $50,000 to support the plot.

Mutabazi was one of 16 people on trial, including three of his relatives. The three relatives were jailed for between four and eight months. All those convicted said they would appeal. "Yes, I have appealed because I cannot consider this as a fair trial," Mutabazi told reporters.

"It's not fair, I am a refugee I was kidnapped. How can you judge someone? They have no evidence." Mutabazi was first arrested in Rwanda in 2010, but managed to flee to Uganda in 2011. In Uganda, he was given refugee status and protection after an assassination attempt and a bungled abduction, Human Rights Watch said.

Mutabazi was arrested in Kampala in 2013 and his controversial extradition to Kigali under dubious circumstances made headlines in the media, attracting the attention of rights groups.

The judge said Mutabazi and Nshimiyimana were accomplices in grenade attacks in September last year that killed two people and wounded others. Nshimiyimana was also jailed for life.

Prosecution accused the two of working with the Rwanda National Congress, and the FDLR, a rebel group based in east Democratic Republic of Congo which the government maintains includes members of the Hutu militia that was behind the 1994 genocide.
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