11 October 2017

Rwanda: Kigali Court Suspends Rwigaras Pre-Trial Again

Photo: Cyril Ndegeya/The East African
Members of the late Kigali tycoon Assinapol Rwigara’s family when they were taken in for questioning by Rwanda police on September 4, 2017 at their residence in Kiyovu.

The pre-trial hearing in which Diane Shima Rwigara, her mother Adeline and sister Anne are accused of inciting insurrection failed to take off again on Wednesday.

The court in Kigali suspended the case after Mrs Rwigara asked for a new lawyer saying due to the magnitude of charges against her, she wanted another advocate to represent her while the family lawyer, Celestin Buhuru, represents her daughters.

The widow of the late Kigali tycoon Assinapol Rwigara said she would like lawyer Gatera Gashabana to represent her. In additional to charges for inciting insurrection, she is also accused of discrimination and sectarian practices.

Her daughter Diane, a prominent government critic who was barred from contesting the presidency in the August 4 election, told the court on Wednesday that she had not been allowed enough time with the lawyer to prepare her defence in the case.

The 35-year-old, who is also charged with forging signatures during her presidential campaign, said she had been denied access to all evidence in the case.

"From the time we were arrested to today, I have not been given full access to my [case] file. I have only seen it here in court," she said.

She added that she needed more time with her lawyer who she had "only been able to see a few times".

The prosecution stated it would not grant full access to the files to the suspects as doing so might jeopardise the case. The prosecution insisted that all they needed to know had been made available.

Mrs Rwigara also asked the court to direct the police to release money the family alleges was confiscated when their house was raided by the authorities last month to enable them pay their lawyers.

After about an hour of recess, the judges returned to court and granted the Rwigaras two days to prepare their defence, warning that it would the last time the court adjourned the hearing.

"As enshrined in the Constitution of the Republic of Rwanda, a suspect has a right to defence and legal representation, which is why the request for Adeline [Mrs Rwigara] is granted," the court ruled.

The judges said the issue of money raised by Mrs Rwigara could only be addressed when the case goes to trial.

Scores of people, including relatives, diplomats, supporters of Ms Rwigara and journalists jammed the court room while other followed proceedings from outside on loud speakers.

Rights groups, which accuse President Paul Kagame of ruling Rwanda through fear, say the trial is politically motivated aimed at silencing Diane.

The three Rwigara women were first presented in court last Friday. The pre-trial hearing was then adjourned to Monday, then to today (Wednesday).

The pre-trial has been adjourned to Friday, October 13.

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