KIGALI (Reuters) - A former bodyguard of Rwanda’s Paul Kagame was sentenced to life on Friday for plotting to kill the president, but he complained that he had been kidnapped and said he would appeal.
Joel Mutabazi was also convicted of being an accomplice in grenade attacks that killed two people in a Kigali market last year in coordination with exiled opposition groups.
Mutabazi says he was kidnapped last October in Uganda, where he had refugee status, and brought back to Rwanda to stand trial. Human Rights Watch said last year his “forcible return raises grave concerns”.
The judge in Kigali found Mutabazi and another man, Joseph Nshimiyimana, guilty of plotting to kill the president. The prosecution said the Rwanda National Congress, an opposition group based in South Africa, had offered the men $50,000 to support the plot.
Mutabazi was one of 16 people on trial, including three of his relatives. The three relatives were jailed for between four and eight months. All those convicted said they would appeal.
“Yes, I have appealed because I cannot consider this as a fair trial,” Mutabazi told reporters.
“It’s not fair, I am a refugee I was kidnapped. How can you judge someone? They have no evidence.”
Mutabazi was first arrested in Rwanda in 2010, but managed to flee to Uganda in 2011. In Uganda, he was given refugee status and protection after an assassination attempt and a bungled abduction, Human Rights Watch said.
In October last year, he disappeared and turned up in the hands of Rwandan police a few days later, the rights group said.
The judge said Mutabazi and Nshimiyimana were accomplices in grenade attacks in September last year that killed two people and wounded others. Nshimiyimana was also jailed for life.
The court accused the two of working with the Rwanda National Congress, and the FDLR, a rebel group based in east Democratic Republic of Congo which the government says includes members of the Hutu militia that was behind the 1994 genocide.
Opponents of Kagame accuse the president of stifling dissent and monopolising power, a charge the government denies. His supporters praise the president for ending the genocide that killed mostly Tutsis in 1994 and for rebuilding a broken nation.
Writing by Edmund Blair and James Macharia; Editing by Robin Pomeroy