By Clement Uwiringiyimana
KIGALI (Reuters) - Two former senior Rwandan military officers have been sentenced to up to 21 years in jail on charges of inciting the public to cause an insurrection and links with exiled critics of President Paul Kagame.
The two were arrested in 2014 and charged with what the prosecutor said was links to Patrick Karegeya, a Kagame opponent, former spy chief who was killed in 2014 in South Africa.
The prosecution also accused them of having links with another exiled opponent of Kagame, former Rwandan army chief General Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa, who survived an assassination attempt in Johannesburg in 2010.
The military court in Kigali handed Colonel Tom Byabagamba, who once served as the head of Kagame's security detail, 21 years in jail and 20 years to Frank Kanyambo Rusagara, a retired brigadier general.
Rusagara and Byabagamba denied the charges throughout the trial. They said they planned to appeal against the sentences.
The court found Byabagamba was guilty of inciting the public to insurrection, tarnishing the image of government while holding an official position, obstructing a criminal investigation and disrespect to the national flag, Major Narcisse Cyubahiro Nsengiyumva, one of the three judges giving the ruling, said late on Thursday.
It also found Rusagara guilty of inciting the public to insurrection, tarnishing the image of government while holding an official position, as well as illegal possession of firearms.
The court also found Rusagara and Byabagamba guilty of spreading the message of the Rwandan National Congress, an opposition group in South Africa, among whose members were Nyamwasa and Karegeya.
Exiled Rwandan opposition members have in the past accused Kagame and his government of being responsible for Karegeya's death and for attacks on Nyamwasa and other overseas-based critics.
Karegeya fled to South Africa in 2007 after allegedly plotting a coup against Kagame with Nyamwasa.
Kagame and senior Rwandan officials have also denied any involvement attacks on exiled opponents, but have called them traitors who should not expect forgiveness or pity.
The court also sentenced Rusagara's driver, retired Sergeant Francois Kabayiza, to five years in jail and a fine of 500,000 francs ($662) for obstructing a criminal investigation.
($1 = 755.0300 Rwandan francs)
(Reporting by George Obulutsa; Editing by Alison Williams)