Rusagara challenges validity of search warrant in treason case

Tuesday December 15 2015

Brig-Gen (Rtd) Frank Rusagara (in green) with his lawyer Pierre Celestin Buhuru at the Military High Court on December 11, 2015. PHOTO | CYRIL NDEGEYA

Brig-Gen (Rtd) Frank Rusagara (in green) with his lawyer Pierre Celestin Buhuru at the Military High Court on December 11, 2015. PHOTO | CYRIL NDEGEYA 

By Ivan R. Mugisha

Rwanda’s military court has questioned the validity of a search warrant prosecutors used to gather electronic communication in the trial of former army man Brig-Gen Frank Rusagara, after his lawyer challenge its legitimacy.

The retired general is accused of treason, spreading propaganda and hate, as well as attempting to stir an army rebellion against President Paul Kagame.

Military High Court Judge, Bernard Hategekimana, on Monday ordered the prosecution to provide more details of the warrant before the court considered emails presented as evidence.

“You should get more clarification and verification on how you intercepted his communications because the court order you provided is not clear,” he said.

The prosecution led by Capt Faustin Nzakamwita argued that the search permit, dated 04/September/2014, was legitimate and that they had abided by its regulations.

However, Rusagara’s lawyer, Pierre Celestin Buhuru, raised a preliminary motion saying: “There was illegal interception of my client’s communications. His freedoms were violated.

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“In criminal procedure law, all evidence obtained illegally can’t be used in a court of law. The court should expel these evidences.”

He also asked the court to do away with evidence provided by the prosecution after the trial began, but the judge ruled against the motion, stating that, “all evidence collected before and during the trial” is considered.

Rusagara is also facing witness testimonies from serving and former military officers.

They include Col Jill Rutaremara, currently the director of Rwanda Peace Academy, who previously served as the military spokesperson; David Kabuye, an ex-Rwandan military officer who recently escaped a 15 year-imprisonment for “spreading false news,” with intent to stir hate and revolt against the Kigali government; former army colonels Kamili Karege and John Bosco Mulisa, who in 2009 were both suspended and relieved of their duties by the army; and Capt George Kayitare.

Rusagara appeared before the Military High Court alongside co-accused Col Tom Byabagamba, former head of the Presidential Guard Unit and Sergeant (Rtd) François Kabayiza.

The trial was adjourned to 28 December.

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