Rwanda court jails 11 for conspiring with rebels to topple government

Reuters News
|
Posted: Mar 12, 2015 2:27 PM

By Clement Uwiringiyimana

KIGALI (Reuters) - A Rwandan court handed jail sentences ranging from 10 years to life to 11 people on Thursday for conspiring with a rebel movement to topple the government of President Paul Kagame.

The group tried in the Musanze area in north Rwanda were accused of working with the FDLR rebel group that is based in east Democratic Republic of Congo and which the government says includes ethnic Hutus who were behind the 1994 genocide that killed Tutsis and moderate Hutus.

Six people got life sentences, including Nsengiyumva Jotham, a former FDLR fighter, and two women. Five people were jailed for 10 years by the court, that was set up in a football stadium, while three were acquitted.

The ruling, read out by four judges hearing the case, said Jotham had confessed to plans to topple the Rwandan government although he argued he had not gone ahead with the mission.

The group had faced charges that included plotting to topple the government on behalf of the FDLR, illegal possession of firearms, murder and carrying out attacks, including assaults with grenades that killed two people and injured others.

The two women who were sentenced to life, Nyirahabimana Bellancile and Agnes Murekatete, were convicted of facilitating the smuggling of guns from FDLR strongholds to Rwanda.

"I'm speechless. My daughter is innocent," said the mother of Bellancile after the verdict, read out in the pouring rain.

In the same district of Rwanda, another group of 16 people is being tried for crimes against state security, including working with FDLR to smuggle guns in the country. The court is due to announce its verdict later this month. 

(Writing by Edmund Blair; Editing by Andrew Heavens)