Kigali terrorism trial suspects deny evidence

Saturday June 21 2014

Right to left, ex-soldiers Joseph Nshimiyimana, Lt Joel Mutabazi and their lawyer at the military court. Photo/Cyril Ndegeya

The trial of former presidential guard Lt Joel Mutabazi and 15 others on charges of terrorism resumed this week, with military prosecutors presenting evidence linking the suspects to the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) and Rwanda National Congress (RNC).

Prosecutors sought to prove that Jean Marie Vianney Ngabonziza, Aminadab Ndyambaje and Innocent Kalisa worked with Lt Mutabazi to threaten state security and plan terror attacks inside Rwanda.

The prosecutors presented videos, SMSs, WhatsApp and Skype messages allegedly retrieved from devices belonging to the suspects.

The military tribunal assessed text messages Lt Mutabazi was said to have exchanged with Joseph Nshimiyimana last year while planning grenade attacks on Kicukiro market in one of the city’s suburbs.

Lt Mutabazi denied having sent the messages that were allegedly retrieved from Mr Nshimiyimana’s phones when he was arrested.

“I have never seen or exchanged messages with anyone, let alone Nshimiyimana,” Lt Mutabazi said after prosecutors read the text messages aloud.


Mr Nshimiyimana admitted to carrying out the September double attacks, in which one person died and many others were injured.

Mr Nshiyimana also denied knowledge of the messages.

The three, who prosecutors insist should face trial together because their charges are linked, denied some of the charges and evidence that they had earlier accepted, which the prosecution says is a major setback in the trial.

On Thursday, the court was shown video footage and pictures retrieved from a laptop belonging to Mr Ngabonziza. He was allegedly a co-ordinator of FDLR and RNC activities in Kampala, Uganda, where he was arrested last year, along with Lt Mutabazi.

READ: New twist in Mutabazi trial as Rwanda prosecutors table video

The video showed Mr Ngabonziza with FDLR fighters inside the Democratic Republic of Congo, assessing the weaponry of the rebel group and discussing the possibilities of attacking Rwanda.

Mr Ngabonziza, a Ugandan Rwandan, did not deny being in the video or meeting the FDLR, but insisted that he was a member of the RNC not FDLR.

He said he took on the RNC co-ordination position because he did not have a problem or previous history with the current government.

“They [RNC] asked me to do mobilisation for them. These were mere assignments. Similarly, if I were hired by the government to talk about the good things they have done, I would do the same,” Mr Ngabonziza said.

“However, I was not working with FDLR. I had taken a message from RNC to Gen. Ntawugunka ‘Omega’ Pacifique,” he said.

He said the message was from RNC officials, including Col Patrick Karegeya, a former RNC member who was killed in South Africa last year, who he said recruited him into the RNC.

Upon recruitment, Mr Ngabonziza said he was promised protection by Mr Karegeya, who linked him to Uganda People’s Defence Forces officer Lt Col Abel Kandiho.

Lt Col Kandiho, a former commander of the Joint Anti-Terrorism Unit under the military intelligence, is the current deputy commander of the Military Police.

The trial continues next week.