Kigali 13th June 2013-Mr Sylvain Sibomana and his co accused Dominique finally appeared before Gasabo High Court on the 13th of June 2013 after several postponements for various reasons.
After reading the charges by the Prosecution which focussed on alleged illegal demonstration and defamation of security services, the defendants raised an issue regarding a flaw in procedure and asked the court to examine the legality of their detention.
The defendants pointed out to the court that the prosecution had claimed that they were arrested red handed. They told the court that the relevant Law on the matter stipulates that in such circumstances the suspects had to be brought before a court within 48 hours following the arrest. They drew the attention of the court that there was no need to look for evidence to try a suspect in a case where the suspect has been caught red handed. The defendants therefore accused the Prosecution of having ignored the law asking the court 30 days to get evidence to charge them. According to the defendants the Prosecution is keeping them in pre-trial detention because it has no evidence allowing them to try them and to keep them in detention.
The judge said that he understands their concerns but ruled that the court hearing would continue and he would deal with the issues of procedure and substance of the case at the same time.
On its charge sheet, the prosecution accuses Sylvain Sibomana of having defamed the security services by stating that they behave as if they were agents of the Party in power. Mr Sibomana denied having made such comments before telling the following words to the judge: « if for any reason, there were policemen who engage themselves in hunting down any person who is not member of RPF and ignoring their role to protect each Rwandan without discrimination, would that be considered a crime, deserving ten year prison sentence, to denounce such a behaviour as the prosecution proposes”?
The Prosecution bases its allegations on the sole fact of having a badge with the photo of Victoire Ingabire on it and wearing a T-shirt with a word democracy on it. The Prosecution also mentions that that there were many people at the hearing. The defendants wondered how wearing a badge and a T-shirt with the mention democracy could be construed to be a demonstration. The fact that the trial of Mrs Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza attracts many people should not be considered to be a demonstration, especially that the hearings are public.
The Prosecution has asked the court to sentence Sylvain Sibomana to 10 years in prison and 5 months of Dominique Shyirambere and one million Rwandan francs. The defence asked the judge to declare the case a non-suit as the Prosecution had failed to provide evidence to substantiate its allegations.
After hearing the submissions of the Prosecution and the Defence, the judge declared that the verdict will be made on the 12th of July 2013.
Mr Sylvain Sibomana and Dominique Shyirambere were arrested within the premises of the Supreme Court on the 25th of March 2013 as they were poised to attend the court hearing of Victoire Ingabire at the appeal case. On the 10 of April 2013, Gasabo High court had ordered a pre-trial arrest of 30 days which the defendants had appealed against. The court never responded to their appeal until they received their summons on the 10th of June calling them to appear in court on the 13th of June 2013, long after the legal pre-trial detention had expired. .