The Special Chamber for International Crimes of the High Court has sent three Muslim men to jail for “living with minors as their wives” – in a case that involved 40 suspects charged together but with different cases including terrorism.
The whole group were arrested back in 2016 as part of a larger operation by security forces. Their case was moved to the High Court in Nyanza district, southern Rwanda.
After more than nine hours reading the verdict this Friday March 22, the Judge found three of the suspects guilty for marrying young girls. The identities of the girls have never been made public as they are considered minors.
Those convicted were jailed for six months in prison and fine of Rwf 200,000 each. They are; Mucyo Abubakar, Habimana Amza and Serugendo Juma.
In the same verdict, 22 other suspects including 1 woman were acquitted of all the charges of terrorism.
The 22 are: Mussa Ally Nizar, Kimenyi Ali alias Gatete, Muhirwa Joseph Yusufu, Sheikh Ndabishoboye Ally, Sheikh Habimana Yassin, Rubangisa Antoine Sulaiman, Kayiranga Jean Marie Vianney Yahaya, Kalisa Seif, Maniraguha Hamza Babou, Ndikumana Issa, Ngabonziza Abubakar Jean Claude, Umuringa Moreen Latif, Ngabonziza shema Hassan,Kubwimana Said Mathiew, Murwanashyaka Hassan Babou, Hatibu Ramadhan, Hategekimana Ramadhan, Ndizihiwe Manisur, Dukundimana Ramadhan,Nsanzumuhire Jean Claude, Ntigurirwa Omar and Manirafasha Asuman.
Another two men were convicted on terrorism related charges and sentenced to 10 years each. They are: Nzahaya Muddy and Nsengiyumva Abdarahman Ismail.
There were 13 remaining who were sentenced to five years imprisonment on terror charges, among them 4 women and BABOU-G who once a subject of social media excitement.
All of them are: Fundi Salim alias BABOU-G, Kamanzi Ally, Byumvuhore Faraj, Murwanashyaka Shaffy Asuman, Gakwisi Abdul Malik, Mugabo Janvier Sulaiman, Tuyizere Yunusu alias Ustadh, Uwitonze Hamimu, Nshimiyumuremyi Abubakar, Mubirigi Karim Jaffar, Mukayisire Pamela Maruwa, Uwamahoro Zawadi and Zayana Morisho.
The suspects were found guilty of spreading extremist jihad messages and recruiting others to join terrorist groups such as al Shabaab and Islamic State.
Other tools used in the jihad preaching included books allegedly translated in Kinyarwanda by Muhamed Mugemangango, an Imam who was shot by Rwandan police in Kigali in January 2016 in what police termed an attempt to evade justice.
The verdict issued yesterday was part of a much bigger case in which two teenagers were found guilty of by the special juvenile chamber of the Intermediate Court in Kigali and sentenced to 10 years each in January last year. They were actually a sister and brother aged 16 and 17.
Besides the two siblings, the juvenile chamber said there wasn’t enough evidence incriminating the other two accused boys aged 19 and 20 and ordered their immediate release.
The trial for the four teenagers had been disassociated with the main trial involving the 40 co-accused adults who sentenced yesterday, whose trial was at the Special Chamber for International Crimes of the High Court in Nyanza district.
There were very few family members of the accused present as they did not expect a verdict to be rendered, because the judgment had been adjourned several times previously.
When the case was opening in 2017, the prosecution sought to case to be heard in camera (behind closed doors) completely, but the judge only agreed to some portions of the trial.
There was only one short break yesterday at 12:30 Pm which the Judge said was to allow for the accused to stretch their legs and go to washrooms.
The verdict was issued amid tight security in and outside the courtroom.
The verdicts were received with loud cheers for those who had been acquitted, and gasps for air from those going to jail.