By Daniel Sabiiti
Canadian deported Genocide suspect Jean Claude Seyoboka today appeared before a military court but things didn’t turn out the way he had planned.
At exactly 8am, the suspect entered court dressed in a green uniform, which is usually given to military detainees in Rwanda expecting to see his lawyer Me Albert Nkundabatware besides him in vain.
Standing before military judges, Seyoboka who looked very smartly dressed with a clean shave, was asked if he was ready to continue with the pre-trial hearing as planned, but with a smile and in a low tone response the suspect said he is not confortable without a defense team.
“I am not used to court proceedings. This is my first time to appear in court and I don’t know how to defend myself” Seyoboka said in response.
The presiding judges and the few court attendees were left in ‘confusion’, and asked him- “where is your lawyer?” Seyoboka replied “I don’t know. I last saw him on Friday and expected to see him here today”
After consultation the presiding judges tried to reach the lawyer on his mobile phone, which was not available at the time.
Seyoboka is the first suspect to appear before a Rwandan military court.
The initial appearance of Seyoboka for pretrial detention will be held at Nyamirambo military court, city of Kigali.
Seyoboka 50, had a rank of 2nd Lieutenant in former regime. He was deported to Rwanda on November 18 becoming the second genocide suspect to be deported by Canada after Dr. Leon Mugesera who was also extradited in 2012.
Faustin Nkusi, the National Public Prosecution spokesperson told KT Press that Seyoboka’s case was transferred to military prosecution. He will be tried by military courts as his former status dictates.
“He was a soldier during the genocide against the Tutsi and this means that the competent court that should try him is a military court,” said Nkusi while referring to Organic law No.02/2012 of June 15, 2012, phasing out Gacaca jurisdictions.
In its article 7, the law provides that suspects who were gendarmes and soldiers during the 1994 Genocide against Tutsi, and are deported/ extradited to Rwanda, will be tried by military courts.
The above organic law on terminating Gacaca courts and mechanism for solving issues under the jurisdiction also comes to play as a result of Seyoboka’s failure to return to Rwanda after being sentenced in absentia to 19 years in jail by Gacaca court in Rugenge sector, Nyarugenge district in 2007.
He was found guilty of planning and supervising the killing of at least 72 Tutsi.
He partnered with Col. Tharcisse Renzaho the then mayor of Kigali City, Lieutenant Colonel Ephrem Setako, head of the division of legal affairs in the Ministry of Defence in 1994 and Odette Nyirabagenzi, then counselor of Rugenge sector.
Seyoboka, popularly known as “Zaire” is linked to the inner circle ‘Akazu’ of the previous Juvenal Habyarimana regime.
He is son-in-law of Col. Elie Sagatwa who died on the plane with ex-president Juvenal Habyarimana on April 06, 1994.
He was common within the elite community of the pre-genocide era with his father-in-law, Col. Sagatwa, a relative of former First Lady Agathe Kanziga Habyarimana.