The brother of exiled Rwandan former Army Chief of Staff Lt Gen Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa was last week sentenced by the Military High Court in Kigali to nine years in prison.
Lt Col Rugigana Ngabo, who has been in detention since August 2010, was found guilty of threatening state security and inciting public disorder.
Lt Col Rugigana looked calm throughout the open court session as the panel of military judges, chaired by Maj Bernard Hategekimana, found him guilty of conspiracy to threaten state security and inciting violence, but not guilty of treason charges.
The military tribunal said Lt Col Rugigana, a former head of the Engineering Regiment in the Rwanda Defence Forces (RDF), was sentenced on grounds of “individual criminal liability.”
The judge reduced the years from 14 to nine, and the fine to Rwf100,000 instead of the initial Rwf200,000. The defence was given 30 days to appeal.
Lt Col Rugigana, fully clad in RDF military combat gear and flanked by several family members, immediately filed an appeal through his lawyer Godfrey Butare.
“We are certainly not happy with the outcome. There was not enough evidence to implicate my client and he should have been acquitted,” said Mr Butare.
“Our defence submissions were not given due credit during the process, but we hope they will be considered during the appeal hearing. We are ready to show where the court has been in breach of the law as soon as the appeal starts,” the lawyer told the press shortly after the ruling.
“My client is definitely not happy with this decision and we are going to prepare our appeal right away,” he added.
Lt Gen Nyamwasa, who was Rwanda’s High Commissioner to India, fled the country in February 2010 through Uganda and Kenya to South Africa where he currently lives, after a bitter falling out with President Paul Kagame.
Since fleeing the country, Lt Gen Nyamwasa has been a strong critic of President Kagame, teaming up with other exiles including former head of intelligence Col Patrick Karegeya, former director of Cabinet Dr Theo Rudasingwa, and former prosecutor general Gerald Gahima.
They wrote Rwanda Briefing, a document that put the regime in Kigali in the spotlight.
Lt Gen Nyamwasa, who has since formed the political organisation, Rwanda National Congress (RNC), was last year sentenced, in absentia, to 24 years in jail for threatening state security.
In July 2010, Lt Gen Nyamwasa narrowly survived an assassination attempt when a gunman attacked him as he entered his home in South Africa. Appearing in court last month, he blamed the shooting on Kigali.