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The beginning of trials of terrorism suspects shaped by contrasting arguments

The High Court of Kigali has, on February 15th, started to hear cases of 50 convicts suspected of getting involved in terrorism crimes, after spending a year in prison.

The National Prosecution says that the suspects are in the process of regrouping to refresh the terrorism attacks in what is understood to be done basing on the Islamic doctrines.

It was the first time the court house had received such a bigger number of people who attended the court hearing as each of the 50 suspects had at least three people who came to hear their trial.

After reading suspects’ names which took three hours, the prosecution suggested the trial to be held in-camera before making any further comments in the process, the decision which brought arguments among people who came to hear the trial, and started to make noise asking the prosecution to hold the trial where any public can hear.

However, the prosecution explained that the trial is so serious since it reflects the national security and that it could be worrying if the facts provided in the public could cause problems.

The prosecution’s proposal not to hold the trial before the public brought arguments and took more hours finding the solution to the issue which failed to be solved as the prosecution was insisting that the cases reflecting to the country’s security can’t be heard by the public.

The suspects’ defendants told the court that the prosecution wanted the trials to be held in-camera to avoid interrupting its investigations on more suspects who were yet to be arrested, and claim that, since the prosecution has completed the investigations and filed the cases, they see no more reason to hold the trial in-camera.

Some of the suspects also claimed that their accusations should be revealed to the public so that the Rwandan community know the truth, saying that what the prosecution says about them is different from the reality about Rwandan security, that the country has plenty of security and they don’t understand how the country can’t deal with insecurity caused by such a small number of not more than 50 people, now convicts.

Besides, some convicts have presented their challenges, especially those who are under 18 years of age who need a separate court to hear their cases.

Their defendants then asked the court that children who are under the adult age should be tried at intermediate courts.

At the moment, five people have been shot by the police since the case of terrorism was reported in Rwanda. They include three who got shot in Kamembe last year, and two who were killed in Kigali, namely Imam Muhamad Mugemangango who was shot in the beginning of 2016 in Kigali after he was suspected for trying to engage people in terrorism rebels.

After hearing the suggestions from sides, the prosecution and the suspects, the court decisions will be heard on March 15th, 2017.

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@Fred Irakoze

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