A significant and telling twist in Victoire Ingabire’s trial in Rwanda

Court hearing of Victoire Ingabire, main leader of the Rwandan opposition to Kagame’s regime, took a telling twist today, when the Judge decided to postpone it. Boniface Twagirimana, interim Vice President of FDU-Inkingi, opposition party of which the accused is chairperson, reports from Kigali on the events in the courtroom.

Angry judge adjourns Ingabire trial

ANGRY JUDGE ADJOURNS INGABIRE TAILSPIN TRIAL TO 04 OCTOBER 2011 AND CALLS THE DEFENSE, BARBARIANS, AMID CHALLENGES OVER THE COURT COMPETENCE AND JURISDICTION

While the Rwandan opposition is still traumatized by the gun attack against one member, Eric Nshimyumuremyi, who survived police chest bullet on 15 September 2011, the first three weeks of the politically motivated case against the opposition leader Madame Victoire Ingabire left the trial in a tailspin. Today [26/9/11], Justice Alice Rulisa, lost her cool and furiously decided to postpone the hearings until 04 October 2011, in order to allow the prosecutor to prepare his response to defence submissions on the principle of non-retroactivity of criminal law, and on the territorial jurisdiction of the high court.

What appeared to the regime as a straightforward life sentence for a key opposition figure is becoming fraught with rancour, contradictions and threats. The presiding judge is siding too closely with the prosecutor and could no longer be considered even handed. She said the defence motion is‚ choking and presented in a barbarian manner. She refused the defence the right to respond to her angry comments. In the interest of a fair trial, Justice Alice Rulisa needs to recuse herself. She betrayed her feelings, making the unfairness of this show trial very obvious.

According to the defence submissions, over 75% of the evidence presented by the national public prosecution authority has no legal basis. The High Court does not have jurisdiction to try the accused for any act or omission which the Prosecutor suggests amounts to genocide ideology done prior to the publication of Law No.18/2008 of 23 July 2008 in the Official Gazette on 15 October 2008. The High Court does not have jurisdiction to try the accused for any act or omission which the Prosecutor suggests amounts to complicity in terrorist acts done prior to the publication of Law No.45/2008 of 9 September 2008 in the Official Gazette on 6 April 2009. The High Court does not have jurisdiction to try the accused for any act or omission which the Prosecutor suggests amounts to discrimination or sectarianism done outside the territory of Rwanda.

Therefore, the accused cannot be held criminally responsible for any such act or omission done prior to 16 January 2010. The High Court does not have jurisdiction to try the accused for any act or omission which the Prosecutor suggests amounts to willingly disseminating rumors aimed at inciting the public against the existing leadership etc. done outside the territory of Rwanda. Therefore, the Accused cannot be held criminally responsible for any such act or omission done prior to 16 January 2010. The High Court does not have jurisdiction to try the accused for any act or omission which the Prosecutor suggests amounts to recruitment etc. into an armed force done outside the territory of Rwanda. Therefore, the accused cannot be held criminally responsible for any such act or omission done prior to 16 January 2010.

From the 05 to 23 September 2011, Madame Ingabire in maximum security since 14 October 2010 was not yet given an opportunity to make a statement. The prosecutor’s key witnesses muddled their visibly rehearsed guilt pleas and begged for mercy. Serious contradictions on the modus operandi were discussed in court until the prosecutor warned his backups to stick only on their written police statements. All the witnesses confused locations’ names, meeting dates, travel information, hotels, logistics and operational details or agents. The role of Ingabire in their criminal activities has not been established.

Threats to the defence counsel were noticed. They have been thoroughly searched and the confidentiality of their documents sometimes violated. They were denied to bring in the courtroom their own drinking water. The lawyer Mr. Gatera was verbally abused and kept 30 minutes outside the premises. The prosecutor surprised the public when he asserted that defence counsels are defending criminals and should not be trusted. This was a serious reminder because two lawyers of Ingabire were incarcerated last year: US Professor Peter Erlinder and Mr. Theogene Muhayeyezu.

Supporters of Madame Ingabire are intimidated too. Security personnel have been busy taking photographs and tailing on a daily basis most of the opposition members following the court debates. There is no doubt that this trial is flawed. We call upon the international community to remind the government of Paul Kagame to respect its international obligations towards fair justice, civil and political rights.

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