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Rwanda High Court orders trial of Victoire Ingabire to proceed

A Rwandan judge has ordered the trial of opposition leader Victoire Ingabire to proceed.

Victoire Ingabire in court

The trial of Rwandan opposition figure Victoire Ingabire opened Monday 05 September.
Ingabire, an outspoken critic of the country’s leadership charged with fomenting insecurity and promoting ethnic divisions, appeared in court in handcuffs, wearing the standard pink Rwandan prison uniform and with her head shaved. Around 20 armed security officials surrounded the courthouse, with several also inside the crowded courtroom.

Charges were read out against Ingabire, dressed in a pink dress but wearing handcuffs and with a shaved head, but after opening prosecutors then called for the trial to be delayed.

Rwandan prosecutors said they have evidence of her alleged “terrorist” activities, including proof of financial transfers to the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), a Hutu rebel movement based in neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo.

However, the prosecution called for more time to collect evidence from the Netherlands, where Ingabire lived in exile before returning to Rwanda in January 2010.
Ingabire’s trial has already been postponed twice. The trial was initially supposed to start May 16 but was pushed back owing to the absence of Ingabire’s lawyers. It was postponed for a second time June 20 after her lawyers asked for more time to prepare.

Arguing against the prosecutor’s request, Ingabire’s British defence lawyer Iain Edwards said the trial should go ahead as planned.

“Delaying the trial would not be in the interest of justice,” Edwards told the court.
“It is clear that the prosecution would not be prejudiced if the trial were to proceed today,” Edwards added.
“But it is clear that Ms. Ingabire would be prejudiced to delay the trial, as she would be subject to continued and lengthy pre-trial detention.”

Judge Alice Rulisa agreed with British lawyer Iain Edwards and dismissed the prosecution’s appeal, ruling it had “failed to give the court an adequate reason to further delay this case.”

“The prosecutor has said from the beginning that they were ready to proceed, and that they had all the evidence they needed to prosecute this case. “Now they are saying they need more time?”, she said.

Ingabire, who has been in detention since her arrest in October last year, is charged alongside several co-accused with “giving financial support to a terrorist group, planning to cause state insecurity and divisionism”. If she is found guilty of all the charges, she is likely to get a life sentence.
Her case file runs to 2,500 pages and only one of her three defence counsels is proficient in the language in which it is written.
One of the stumbling blocks to the trial going ahead has been the issue of translating thousands of pages of documents from the local Kinyarwanda language into one mastered by the foreign lawyers on Ingabire’s defence team. However, defence lawyer Gatera Gashabana said that “All translations that were requested have been made” and they were ready for the trial.

Ingabire arrived in Rwanda in January 2010 after 17 years in exile in the Netherlands.
Her party, Unified Democratic Forces (UDF), known as FDU-Inkingi and refused accreditation as a political party, accuses Rwandan authorities of fabricating evidence against its leader with the aim of blocking her from political life.

September 7, 2011   2 Comments

Ingabire Trial: Kigali High Court Rejects Prosecutor’s Adjournment Request

by Boniface Twagirimana,
Interim Vice President of FDU-Inkingi

The trial of the opposition leader Victoire Ingabire, FDU-INKINGI Chair, started on 05 September with a new prosecutor’s request to postpone the trial to an unknown date due to the fact that the Dutch government has not sent withheld “pieces of evidence”. The defence counsel reminded “that from the start, justifying the preventive detention of the opposition leader, President Paul Kagame, his government and the Prosecutor stated they had overwhelming evidence. It this evidence did not exist, or is not available, the client should be immediately either bailed out, discharged and released “. After deliberations, the High Court presiding Judge Ms. Alice Rulisa rejected the prosecutor’s objection.

The prosecutor’s evasive delaying tactics and the surprising last minute move to postpone sine die the hearing and to keep the opposition leader in maximum security reveal once again the weakness of the legal basis of this politically motivated case. The arrest was done before investigation.

All key opposition leaders are in prison, dead or in exile. Ms. Ingabire is detained in isolation and denied adequate medical care.

Justice delayed is justice denied. Nobody is expecting any fairness in this circus where the RPF regime is both judge and party.

September 7, 2011   1 Comment