A court in Rwanda has found two minors charged with terrorism guilty and sentenced them to more than ten years in prison while another two were acquitted.
The special chamber for minors of Gasabo Intermediate Court returned a guilty verdict against a brother and sister, from western Rwanda, for terrorism -related charges. The boy got a 14-year sentence while the girl got 10 years in prison.
They were part of a larger trial involving 42 Muslims. The case has been pending in court since 2016.
The girl, who is turning 16 this month and the youngest of all the accused, was found guilty “of being a member of a terrorist organisation and participating in acts of terrorism or being involved in an association that contributes to the capacity-building of another terrorism association for the purpose of committing or supporting terrorism,” the verdict reads.
Her brother, who turns 18 this year, was found guilty of the same offences plus “contempt of the national flag or official emblems of the sovereignty of the Republic.”
Committed jihad recruit
According to the prosecution, “the boy was found with a mutilated Rwandan flag with Arabic inscription, an Islamic State flag at his residence and was a committed jihad recruit.”
He was also found guilty of spreading extremist jihad messages and recruiting his age mates including his sister to join terrorist groups such as al Shabaab and Islamic State.
According to the prosecution’s indictment, the messages were spread using DVDs of the controversial Kenyan Muslim cleric Aboud Rogo and social media messages.
Other tools used in the jihad preaching included books allegedly translated in Kinyarwanda by Muhamed Mugemangango, an Imam who was shot by Rwandan police in Kigali in January 2016 in what police termed an attempt to evade justice.
Besides the two siblings, the juvenile chamber said there wasn’t enough evidence incriminating the remaining two accused boys aged 19 and 20 and ordered their immediate release. The court said it considered the age of the siblings as a mitigating circumstance.
The trial for the four teenagers was disassociated with the main trial involving 38 co-accused adults, whose trial is still ongoing in the Special Chamber for International Crimes of the High Court.
The state links the 38 adults to terrorism activities in different parts of the country. According to sources they are divided in five categories depending on where they were allegedly operating from.
They were all arrested in 2016 with the first group being apprehended in March, according to the prosecution. However, some of the accused told the court that they were arrested months before the date showed.
It is not clear if the siblings will appeal the verdict and an attempt by Rwanda Today to talk to their lawyers failed. The prosecution on the other hand says, “It is yet to decide whether it will appeal the acquittal of the other two minors.”
The sentencing of the siblings has to some extent given an idea about the sentencing in the main trial since the facts in the two cases are interlinked.