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12th April 2012 – Stop intimidation of defense witnesses in Ingabire’s trial

Defense witness Colonel Michel Habimana who revealed yesterday that the terror case against the opposition leader Ingabire was trumped up by intelligence services in order to stifle her political ambitions, is under heavy intimidation and threats in order to change his story.

The State machinery has embarked on an outrageous mission to “flip” or destroy the defense witnesses. Today, the witness narrated to the high court his ordeal after yesterday open court testimony and asked for protection for his life. We believe that the prosecutor’s contemptible conduct and threats towards defense witnesses are aiming to terrorise anybody willing to tell the truth in this case.

After his oral testimony in court, witness Michel Habimana found his cell turned up and down, all his notes seized, his blankets on the floor and the mattress torn. He was afterwards interrogated for hours in some kind of “turn or burn threat” by the Kimironko detention facility director, Mr. Michel Kamugisha, together with a very nervous unknown official who declined to disclose neither his identity, nor his rank.

Violation of privacy

The prosecutor surprised the public when he handed over to the court the hand written drafts of the witness’s statement and told the High court that this was a proof that witness Michel Habimana was prepared by unknown people acting on behalf of the defense in order to destroy parts of the indictment. There is no doubt that the violation of his privacy and the subsequent grilling were ordered by the Prosecutor after his open court statements. The interrogators were pressurizing the witness not to pursue his story intimating that he would face dire consequences. Similar threats towards other potential witnesses have been reported.

If the high court does not seriously reprimand this behavior, no other defense witness will put his life at risk. Political prisoner Ingabire is charged with grave allegations and, if convicted on them, will spend life in prison. The witnesses proving her innocence are intimidated and threatened by the government.

We call upon the international community and friends of Rwanda to intercede for a fair and due process.

FDU-INKINGI
Boniface Twagirimana
Interim Vice President