The New Times (Kigali)

15 December 2012

Rwanda: Five Handed 25 Years Over Murder

Nyanza — A judge at the itinerant chamber of the High Court in Nyanza has sentenced five people, including the Executive Secretary of Kigoma Sector, Huye district, Festus Habyarimana to 25 years in jail after court found them guilty of murder.

The five were convicted on different counts of murder, conspiracy to commit murder and the violation of a person's domicile.

The other convicts are Police constables Fabiola Uwiragiye and Frank Rugamba as well as Steven Karemera a.k.a Maridadi, a reservist.

A fifth person, also a reservist, David Ngezahayo, who has never appeared in court since the trial kicked off last month was also sentenced in absentia.

When the verdict was pronounced on Friday morning, all the defendants were not in court. The four lawyers representing them and the prosecutor were also not in attendance.

"The court finds all the accused guilty," Judge Dalousi Kamanzi ruled before a packed courtroom.

Judge Kamanzi examined the events and circumstances which led to the murder of two individuals in Kigoma sector on the night of July 2 this year, as they were narrated by both the prosecution and the defence team.

Thereafter, he announced the court's decision.

"The court sentences all the accused to 25 years in jail," he said.

Judge Kamanzi said the accused could have been sentenced to life in jail for the crimes they were found guilty of but added that he found mitigating circumstances which resulted into the lessening of their prison term.

"The court found out that all the defendants had no other criminal record and decided to jail them for 25 years rather than the maximum sentence [life in jail]", he explained.

Meanwhile, the Judge awarded Rwf10 million in reparations to the wife of one of the deceased. Each defendant will pay to Dorothee Mukambanda, the woman, Rwf 2 million, judge Kamanzi ruled.

Another wife, who was also seeking reparations, saw her request rejected because they were not formally married and she failed to prove to the court that she is the mother of the child she claims to have produced with the deceased.

"Plan to kill"

During the trial last November, prosecution represented by Deo Lambert Mugabo, told the court that on the night of July 2, the suspects "invaded" the house of one Laurent Sebera, 42, a resident of Nsekera village, and shot him dead together with his nephew, Innocent Mutuyimana, 29.

Prosecution alleged that while on the fateful night the mission of the Executive Secretary and his team was supposed to be the supervision of the night community policing patrol (Irondo), they diverted and went to disturb the safety of the victims.

It also questioned the reasons why the leader took with him, "in his car", two armed policemen and two reservists and "instead of supervising the night patrol went to Sebera's home".

The court also heard how earlier that day, a team comprising of police constable and a reservist had visited Sebera's home in what prosecution termed as 'a mission of reconnaissance to ascertain that Sebera was at home".

This, according to prosecution, is a sign that the plan to kill him was well hatched before it was executed.

The court, in its ruling, said there was enough evidence to corroborate the account.

However, while appearing in court in November, all the suspects denied the accusations that the murder of the duo was in any way premeditated.

By press time, it was not yet clear whether the defendants or the prosecution would appeal the verdict.

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