30 November 2012

Rwanda: Prosecution Appeals Ingabire Ruling

The Prosecution has appealed the Supreme Court challenging the eight-year sentence handed to Victoire Ingabire, the head of a yet to be registered political party, FDU-Inkingi.

The High Court in October convicted Ingabire on two counts of Genocide denial, and conspiracy and planning to cause state insecurity, and was acquitted of four other charges that included genocide ideology, promoting ethnic divisionism and supporting armed groups.

According to the spokesperson of the Public Prosecution Authority, Alain Mukurarinda, the prosecution also appealed against the 'lenient' sentence handed to Ingabire's four co- accused.

"There are some provisions of the Penal Code that we based on to file a suit against Ingabire in the first place, but the judge ruled them out, hence clearing Ingabire and the co-accused of the crime of creating an armed group, yet the co-accused have actually pleaded guilty on that particular crime," Mukuralinda said.

The Court also cleared Ingabire on charges of genocide ideology saying that all the statements Ingabire made did not indicate that she was calling for genocide.

According to Mukuralinda, the judge ignored that there would be implications for crimes Ingabire may have committed at a later stage - another reason the prosecution based on to appeal.

"The judge said three times that Ingabire's utterances were tantamount to crimes but she ignored that and said that since there was no implication then she is cleared. This is not possible. The judge had already proved that she is guilty already and abruptly cleared her," added Mukuralinda, who was also the lead prosecutor in Ingabire's case at the High Court.

The prosecution had called for a sentence of 35 years on the two charges.

"We are also appealing against this lenient sentence handed to Ingabire on the basis that she sought presidential clemency but truth be told, until the time she pulled out of the trial, she had never pleaded guilty or asked for forgiveness in whichever way," Mukuralinda explained.

"Also, assume she asked for forgiveness, how could that happen when she claims she is innocent, and why would she be asking clemency? This is another basis of our appeal - the unreasonable leniency of the sentence handed to her."

Ingabire returned to Rwanda in 2010 after living in The Netherlands for 16 years and quickly visited the Kigali Genocide Memorial, where she alleged that why Hutus killed in the violence were not recognised as the Tutsis were.

The Prosecution claimed that Ingabire's statements were not simply a free-speech issue because she could incite Rwanda "to once more explode."

Ingabire, 44, withdrew from her case in April, citing lack of an independent judiciary and was absent during the pronouncement of the ruling.

The trial began in September 2011 and wrapped up in April. Four co-defendants all pinned Ingabire on collaboration with armed groups.

Ingabire's co-accused were handed lighter sentences after they pleaded guilty of all charges and pleaded for leniency.

They include Capt. Jean Marie Vianney Karuta, who was sentenced to two years and seven months in prison, Lt. Col. Tharcisse Nditurende and Lt. Col Noel Habiyaremye, who were both imprisoned for three and half years for planning to cause state insecurity.

Maj. Vital Uwumuremyi was sentenced to three years and a half in prison and a two-year suspended sentence on charges of conspiracy and planning to cause state insecurity.

They are former officers of the so-called Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, a militia group based in DRC.

Although they pleaded guilty, prosecution says that the sentences handed to them were very lenient.

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