Rwanda: Rusesabagina Gets 25-Year Sentence Over FLN Terror Attacks

20 September 2021

Court on Monday, September 20, handed a 25-year sentence to Paul Rusesabagina, the man who was the political head of FLN, a terror group that orchestrated murders in south-western Rwanda between 2018 and 2019.

At least nine people were killed during the attacks, while others were left injured and property looted or destroyed.

"Court hereby convicts Rusesabagina to crimes of creating and committing acts of terrorism, and thereby sentences him to 25 years in prison," ruled Justice Antoine Muhima, the president of the High Court Chamber for International and Cross Border Crimes.

Court ruled that the fact that Rusesabagina had boycotted court proceedings meant that he could not get a reduction in sentence.

Court, however, absolved him of the charge of formation and creation of an irregular armed group, saying the crimes committed were in the context of a terrorism, and should therefore be considered under terrorism crimes law.

Rusesabagina, who was not present in court during the pronouncement of the sentence, is considered the mastermind of the atrocities committed by FLN in the districts of Nyamagabe, Rusizi and Nyaruguru.

He received the heaviest sentence of all the 21 suspects.

According to several accounts - both by witnesses and his co-accused - he co-founded the MRCD coalition that had political oversight over militia group whose operational bases oscillated between Burundi and DR Congo.

At least nine people were killed during the attacks by FLN.

Documents submitted to court by prosecution pinned Rusesabagina on, among other activities, coordinating the purchase of armed and other military-grade merchandise which was then used to launch attacks on Rwandan territory, killing civilians.

The ruling was, among others, attended by local and international journalists, diplomats, as well as victims of the attacks and their lawyers.

Overall, 94 civil parties participated in the case, seeking to be compensated for different reasons, including those who were left with permanent injuries.

Rusesabagina attended proceedings during the early days of the case before withdrawing from the eight-month trial in the wake of damning revelations from a key prosecution witness, Burundian national Bishop Constantin Niyomwungere, his long-time friend.

Niyomwungere, who also holds a Belgian passport, admitted to playing a central role in Rusesabagina's arrest after he tricked him into a trip the former believed would take him to neighbouring Burundi, only to end up in Rwanda last year.

Former FLN spokesperson and Rusesabagina's deputy Callixte Nsabimana, alias Sankara, one of the defendants who pleaded guilty, was sentenced to 20 years in prison, with the other defendants receiving sentences ranging from three to 20 years.

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