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Prosecutors seek more years for Rugigana as appeal is adjourned

The Supreme Court of Rwanda has deferred to April the hearing of the appeal against Lt-Col Rugigana Rugemangabo, a brother of exiled general Kayumba Nyamwasa, convicted of threatening state security.

The hearing of the case was due on March 12, but the court said the accused and his defence team had not yet made available their submissions detailing the grounds of the appeal and responding to the prosecution’s submissions.

Rugemangabo blamed the failure to prepare and hand in his appeal submissions on time on “solitary confinement” that prevented him access to his lawyers.

“Since my conviction, I have not had access to my lawyers until last week, and I could not prepare my defence without them,” he said.

Health problems

The former Commanding Officer of the Engineering Regiment in the Rwanda Defence Forces (RDF) also told the court that he has health problems hampering the preparation of his defence.

At the beginning of the hearing on Monday, he complained that he could hardly hear.

Capt Faustin Nzakamwita, a military prosecutor, said the accused should plead for more time to prepare his submissions. The court fixed the next hearing on April 30, but ordered the defence to submit the submissions not later than March 30.

The court also ordered the military prosecution to respond to the submissions not later than April 13 to avoid any future adjournment.

Rugemangabo was represented by Godfrey Butare.

The accused asked for a laptop to prepare his appeal, but the court denied the request.

Conspiracy to threaten state security

In 2012, the Military High Court found Lt-Col Rugemangabo guilty of conspiracy to threaten state security and inciting violence and sentenced him to nine years in prison. The court cleared him of treason charges.

Both sides appeal against the decision, with the prosecution calling it “lenient” while the accused and his defence labelled it harsh.

Having spent eight years in prison already, Lt-Col Rugemangabo has just a year to serve his full sentence.

He was arrested in 2010, two months after his brother and former Army Chief of Staff, Gen Nyamwasa left the country for exile in South Africa, where he still lives.

Since his arrest, Rwanda has maintained that Rugigana’s prosecution had nothing to do with his affiliation to Nyamwasa, but for “individual criminal liability”.

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