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Rwanda seeks life for army officer accused of attack plots

30 July 2014, 21:44

Kigali - Military prosecution lawyers in Rwanda on Wednesday sought a life sentence for an ex-officer accused of plotting attacks on the state, who was extradited from Uganda despite being a refugee.

Joel Mutabazi, a former member of the presidential guard protecting Rwandan President Paul Kagame, fled the country in 2011 but was extradited by Ugandan authorities last year, despite criticism from rights groups.

Mutabazi, whose trial opened in January, was indicted on charges of "terrorism, setting up an armed group, spreading rumours with the intention of inciting the public to rise up against the state, murder, crimes against the state and illegal possession of a firearm".

"All these are serious crimes, and for this we request a life sentence", army prosecutor Faustin Nzakamwita told the military court in the capital Kigali.

Mutabazi has pleaded not guilty, said his trial was illegal and that his life was in danger.

He has refused to testify in court, but protested his innocence again Wednesday.

"All those charges against me are made up, I am innocent and I request the judges order my immediate release," Mutabazi said.

Police have accused him and 15 other co-accused of being linked to a string of grenade attacks carried out in Rwanda, as part of the dissident Rwanda National Congress (RNC), in collaboration with the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR).

Prosecutors also demanded a life sentence for Joseph Nshimiyimana, accused of being an FDLR corporal, and a sentence of 37 years each for eight others.

The other accused, some related to Mutabazi, should face sentences of between five and 20 years, prosecutors argued.

The RNC, based between South Africa and the United States, is headed by defectors from Kagame's ruling party.

The FDLR are the Democratic Republic of the Congo-based descendants of the ethnic Hutu militia who carried out Rwanda's 1994 genocide.

The UN refugee agency and Human Rights Watch strongly criticised Mutabazi's transfer to Rwanda.


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