The High Court Chamber for International and Cross-border Crimes sitting in Nyanza district on Wednesday turned down a request by Yvonne Idamange Iryamugwiza to move her trial to Kigali rather than holding it in the Southern Province.
The Nyanza-based court began hearing the trial of Idamange in substance but the 42-year-old said that she was not ready to undergo trial via video conference, requesting that her trial be moved to Kigali and made public.
Idamange, who is facing six charges which include inciting insurrections or public uprising, denigrating genocide commemoration artifacts, publication of rumours, assault and causing bodily harm, obstructing the work of law enforcement organs and issuing a bouncing cheque also said that she needed more time to prepare.
She requested court for two months, claiming that she learned about her trial on short notice, on May 4, and did not have enough time to prepare.
Idamange also told court that her witnesses are in Kigali and that family members want to follow the trial, hence the need to relocate the hearing to the capital as was the case with Paul Rusesabagina’s trial.
The defendant further claimed that putting her trial in Nyanza would expose her to COVID-19 while in Kigali she would also see her family and children.
Idamange and her lawyer Bruce Bikorwa argued that it is her right to have her trial in an area of her choice and convenience. Her lawyer further argued that holding the trial virtually will lead to delays.
She further claimed that she was worried of being sent to Nyanza due to the COVID-19 threat there as well as other objections to her safety in Nyarugenge Prison.
Prosecution however objected to Idamange and her lawyer’s claims, pointing out that she was given the file earlier than May 4 which she claimed she got the file, meaning that she had ample time to read the file.
The Prosecution said that it would not object to the trial being moved but that will be for the court to decide. They however said that they wouldn’t have a problem if the trial continued on video conference as many cases have during the COVID-19 pandemic.
They argued that many trials have been held using the same system since the COVID-19 outbreak and justice was dispensed. Idamange’s trial can’t be any different, adding however that they wouldn’t object to a physical trial if the court ruled in favour of that.
In its decision, the court found that Idamange was informed on April 29 when the trial would be held instead of May 4, the date she mentioned, which gave her enough time to prepare.
On the issue of relocating the trial to Kigali, the court found no convincing reason to do so because several trials have been held there successfully in recent months. The court said that moving Rusesabagina’s trial to Kigali was solely because there were many people involved including civil parties.
The Judge assured Idamange that even her witnesses will be able to testify without any challenges. Court further ruled that the trial will resume on June 15 but in its chambers in Nyanza district with Idamange physically attending.
Idamange was arrested in February this year after publishing a number of Youtube videos in which she allegedly incited masses to revolt against the government and to reject New Coronavirus directives issued by the government.
Among other statements, Idamange claimed that the government had commercialized 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi memorials, claiming that they had become tourist attractions.
She also urged citizens to march to Village Urugwiro and demand for the body of the President who she claimed had passed on several months back.
On March 9, Gasabo Primary Court denied Idamange bail, placing her on remand for 30 days pending trial.