All 12 co-accused with BBC journalist Phocas Ndayizera in a rare terrorism case have made a sharp U-Turn and denied all charges brought against them by the state.
Back in November last year, Ndayizera himself also pleaded ‘Not Guilty’. All the 13 had, during arrest and bail hearings, admitted to being party to plan to detonate explosives in different parts of Kigali.
In early November 2018, the BBC stringer based in Muhanga district went missing. Ndayizeye’s case was all over the news. Then days later on November 28, RIB paraded Ndayizera before the media with box of explosives that he and others were allegedly planning to use to attack several areas of Kigali.
On that day he admitted to journalists that indeed he was involved in the plan. In the weeks and months that followed, 12 other people were arrested. They were denied bail and have since been in pretrial detention.
However, in his defense currently ongoing at the High Court International Crimes Chamber in Nyanza district, he denied all charges.
Appearing today for continuation of their defense, the 12 others each took turns to change plea, each affirming they were tortured into admitting the charges.
They all face four charges: conspiracy to cause state insecurity, belonging to criminal enterprise, conspiracy to commit terrorism and, illegally using and handling explosives.
Prosecution claims BBC journalist Ndayizeye was in constant contact with Cassien Ntamuhanga, who is in exile. Ntamuhanga, also a journalist, was in jail serving long term for terrorism, but reportedly escaped from prison.
First in the dock today was Karangwa Eliaquim, a tech expert with wide knowledge of explosives. He denied prosecution case that he is the one who designed the dynamite-packed explosives would have been used.
Karangwa told court that he admitted to the charges because he was blindfolded for days and thought he would be killed in custody. He said he knew there would be opportunity to clear his name in court with evidence.
Karangwa said today that he was told in RIB custody that he would be freed if he confirmed the charges against Ndayizera Phocus. He denied any knowledge of plan to attack Kigali.
He revealed that his tech knowledge has been used in developing tools in Rwanda and sold in the region. Karangwa said the only project he was working with Ndayizera is one of a machine for irrigation which was to be sold to a Kenyan, who had already paid some an installment for the machine.
All the other 11 also changed plea during the long session today. Each of them had a story of their own. It means that prosecution has huge task to prove the case.
The case continues on April 8 and 9.