Victoire Ingabire asks court to set her free as state seeks 25 years

Friday April 19 2013

By Edmund Kagire Rwanda Today

The appeal hearing of Victoire Umuhoza Ingabire, the head of the unregistered opposition party, Union Democratic Forces (FDU-Inkingi), resumed in the Supreme Court last week with prosecutors seeking a sentence of 25 years for the politician.

Ms Ingabire asked the Supreme Court to scrap the eight-year sentence she was handed by the High court last October and clear her of incitement to genocide, conspiracy to form an armed group to threaten state security and propagating ethnic divisions among other charges.

The prosecution team led by the country’s deputy Prosecutor General Alphonse Hitiyaremye told the Supreme Court that the High Court wrongly cleared Ms Ingabire of some charges even though there were enough evidence implicating her.

“Our appeal is based on the observation that the High Court Judge misinterpreted the law to clear Mrs Ingabire on some of the charges, disregarding compelling evidence presented to court by prosecution.

“Prosecution maintains that Ms Ingabire is liable to the charge of conspiracy to form a military organisation to destabilise national security committed by Ingabire and four of her co-accused. While the court did not discredit the evidence we presented, it did not convict Ms Ingabire on that.

“We maintain that once the court proves that the intent on Ms Ingabire’s side was there, then she should be convicted on that rather than the fact that there were no implications resulting from her acts as the High Court argued,” Mr Hitiyaremye said.

When the case resumed, prosecutors cemented their argument that the High Court Judge relied on article 151 rather than article 163 of the criminal proceedings to clear Ms Ingabire of some charges.

As a result, the prosecution asked the Supreme Court to reinstate the charges based on the evidence and hand Ms Ingabire a minimum sentence of 25 years in prison for inciting citizens against a standing government and supporting an armed group, which had intentions of attacking the country.

Ms Ingabire, who was sentenced on two counts of genocide as well as conspiracy and planning to cause state insecurity, asked the Supreme Court to scrap the 8-year sentence and disregard the request of prosecution, challenging the evidence used in her conviction.

Ms Ingabire told the court that the High Court convicted on evidence, which the prosecution used wrongly.

Against agreement

Ms Ingabire claims that there was an agreement between the Dutch government and the Rwandan government not to use the evidence sent from the Netherlands in any other charge other than the one of incitement and forming an armed group.

“The evidence from Holland was used by the High Court to convict me on the charge of conspiracy and planning to cause state insecurity, which was against the agreement Rwanda had with Holland.

“I also want to say that I did not enter into any sort of agreement with Maj Vital Umumuremyi and Lt Col Tharcisse Nditurende to start an armed organisation for my party,” Ms Ingabire argued.

However, prosecution maintains that there is evidence in form of e-mails and money transfer records to prove Ms Ingabire’s involvement with the four men who were handed lighter sentences.