David Rugaza, a lawyer personally picked by terror suspect Paul Rusesabagina to help fight a legal battle against serious criminal charges against him through Rwandan courts, says this case is not political and has strong conviction that his client is innocent.
On Wednesday, Taarifa’s investigative team held a lengthy conversation with Counsel David Rugaza and explored a range of issues surrounding this upcoming case of Paul Rusesabagina recently captured by Rwandan authorities.
On representing a Hollywood engineered hero, Rugaza says he is proud to have been selected by his client, “I’m very happy to be with my client. Lawyers we have a prerogative to make a choice.”
Questioned on some assertions that this is a politically prompted case, Rugaza was very categorical in his submission; “May be if you journalists want to make it political, I don’t know. For me, I’m defending criminal matters. For the political issue, I’m not a politician to know what is political or not…. [laughs]. My expertise is in legal matters.”
A few days ago during a televised interview, President Paul Kagame said your client has blood on his hands…Doesn’t this set the tone or even affect the outcome of the court process? Taarifa wuerried him….[takes a deep breath]..”That one I reserve it to the court. How can I know it before the court hearing? I can’t know what is in the heart of the Judges moreover they haven’t been appointed and the case hasn’t reached court. Unless if you want me to dream.”
Taarifa: As a legal representative of Rusesabagina don’t you think the president’s comments will affect the court process?
Rugaza: I am not a legal representative, I’m his assistant. That is not in my scope.
Taarifa: Do you think you will win this case?…
Rugaza: “[pauses]…how can I tell you that I will win or lose . Answering you as a lawyer, a lawyer has never won or lost a case. It is the client that loses or wins a case in court. As a lawyer I don’t have a case in court – it is my client that has a case to answer.”
Taarifa: Some critiques argue that you have been planted to represent Rusesabagina.
Rugaza: Thank you for that question. You cannot expect someone to speak the way you want him to speak. Everyone has freedom and right to speak what he wants. If there are some people who have said that, it is their wish.
..and the conversion continued late night.
On whether Rusesabagina speaks to his family, Rugaza says, “Yes. Even today evening. As a lawyer, I requested that he speaks to his family. They spoke for a long time and it is not the first time. Even previous day he spoke to the children. They held a good conversation and I noticed they are well.”
Rugaza said he had already made formal requests to Rwanda Investigative Bureau to release his client and investigations be conducted while his client is out of detention; “I requested RIB investigators to provisionally release him since criminal procedures allow that a suspect can be investigated while they are free subject to provisions of article 82.”
According to Rugaza, his client is a trustable and a man of good standing in the whole world and has been awarded for it, “My client has never been sentenced for any offence anywhere before. This shows how much my client is credible and if released he cannot disrupt investigation. I will continue to demand for his provisional release at all stages.”
In a video that has been circulating allover social media platforms indicating Paul Rusesabagina declaring war and ordering forceful means by use of arms to remove the regime in Kigali and later terror attacks in communities around Nyungwe forest in south western Rwanda, Rugaza has a different argument saying he cannot pronounce himself on a video to which its proof of authenticity of content in the video has to first be investigated.
Taarifa: Is Rusesabagina sorry or remorseful for his actions on Rwandan territory that have caused death, injuries and trauma?
Rugaza: Why do you want me to talk about a file under investigation? Once they submit the case to court you can come and hear.
[On Wednesday Rusesabagina appeared before the National Public Prosecution for the first time since he arrived in the country. He arrived in company with Rugaza.]
Taarifa: Are you worried about being your client getting a fair trial?
Rugaza: I cannot say that am worried while the conditions are observed unless they are not observed.
Taarifa: In which language do you speak with Rusesabagina?
Rugaza: All languages that he uses, I use the same to speak to him.
…..Rugaza explains that he did not know Rusesabagina before. “I first met him when I recently met him. The Rwanda bar association has a service of pro bono cases. Rusesabagina was provided a list of lawyers and he requested for our CVs. That is how he selected me and we began conversations.”
However, Rugaza remains non-committal on how his client was arrested and how he found his way on Rwandan territory. “There are some points we have not yet discussed,” Rugaza said.
Commenting on conditions in detention, Rugaza told Taarifa that his client is well cared for; “he sleeps perfect in normal circumstances and condition that he is supposed to be provided for and treated as a human being. He has long time illness and has been to King Faisal Hospital for treatment.”