September 20, 2019

Justice Minister Instructs Prosecutor-General To Drop Charges Against Journalist Mulindahabi

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Justice Minister and Attorney-General Johnston Busingye is the line-minister overseeing the National Public Prosecution Authority, Rwanda Investigations Bureau (RIB) and the National Police

The Prosecutor-General Jean Bosco Mutangana has dropped all charges against a local TV and radio presenter Mulindahabi Irénè.

The development came after the intervention of Justice Minister and Attorney-General, Johnston Busingye, The Chronicles can exclusively reveal.

Mulindahabi was on Tuesday evening this week arrested by Rwanda Investigation Bureau (RIB) over content published in a YouTube video deemed obscene.

READ: Watch What You Post On Social Media Or The Government Is Coming For You: Here are 10 Victims

However, by evening the following day, Mukindahabi was set free from detention. Prosecutor-General Mutangana told the media in interviews the same day that the TV/radio presenter had been released, but did not mention that his case had been dropped.

Now, highly credible sources have confirmed to The Chronicles that the Justice Minister and Attorney-General Johnston Busingye, did engage with Mutangana to drop all charges.

In a letter dated September 18, 2019 (Wednesday), a copy of which we obtained from a trusted source, Minister Busingye writes: “Considering Article 145, Paragraph 2 of 2003 Constitution, as amended up to 2015, which partly stipulates that “in matters relating to prosecution of offences, the Minister in charge of justice determines the general policy and may, in public interest, issue written instructions to the Prosecutor General to undertake or refrain from investigating and prosecuting an offence.”

“I have written to you instructing that you halt the prosecution of Mulindahabi Irénè who is being prosecuted on the charge of publishing obscene words on social media.”

The Chronicles has also established that it has been rare for the Justice Minister to apply this particular constitutional provision in Article 45.

When contacted, Mulindahabi, who sounded scared, said he did not want to make any comment about his case.

However, The Chronicles has separately learnt that the Prosecution gave him a document releasing him from custody without conditions, but did not tell him clearly whether he was completely a free person nor did it give him the minister’s letter.

But Mutanganga informed The Chronicles this Friday that “There is no pending case against [Mulindahabi]. Charges have been dropped.”

Asked why the journalist was still not sure about his fate, Mutangana said: “The Prosecution letter only serves the purpose of releasing him from detention without any condition. Its a judicial document that releases a suspect from custody. And prosecution isn’t pursuing him any further on charges to which he was arrested by RIB. I think i have made it clear to you. He is released and free.”

Mutangana, however, did not respond to whether Mulindahabi was released before or after receiving the letter from the minister.

When contacted, the Justice Minister, on his part, confirmed the existence of the letter and argued there was good reason to use the constitutional powers (in Article 145) in this case.

The Minister said: “Yes I did (write the letter)”.

He added: “We don’t run a morality [based judicial] system. We run a law [based] institutional system”.

To the minister, Mulindahabi’s case “wasn’t a prosecutable case” since it concerns subjective morality and the state doesn’t police morality, he said.

The minister further said that Mr. Mulindahabi doesn’t have anything to fear since he is a free man.

The Minister’s intervention comes amid ongoing differences among government officials about how to handle moral issues. Some officials have been pushing for investigating and prosecuting what they perceive as immorality especially on social media, while others, including Minister Busingye, prefer to treat Rwandan society as mature enough to be policed.

State Minister in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in charge of East African Community Affairs Olivier Nduhungirehe is another vocal voice who always comes to the defense of those singled out in the media as engaging in immoral acts. He strongly reacts especially when anyone posts pictures of women being targeted as dressed indecently.

To Busingye and others, alleged immorality should be sanctioned at the family level and other social groupings rather than by law enforcement agencies and courts of law.

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