In a virtual court session this Friday, prosecution sought for the maximum possible jail sentence for Dr Christopher Kayumba in a case where he denied all the charges.
Kayumba, co-founder of The Chronicles, was arrested on the morning of December 10 last year. On that day, he was scheduled to travel out of the country. The Kagarama intermediate court denied him bail up to appeal.
According to his charge sheet, Kayumba faced two charges; public drunkenness and causing disturbances at an international airport.
Appearing today in a session that lasted 8:30am to 14h30, Dr Kayumba denied all the charges. He was at Mageragere prison with his lawyer, while judge was at the court in Kicukiro, and prosecution in their office.
The prosecutor laid out that Kayumba was arrested after threatening to “shutdown” Kigali International Airport on December 10. In addition, that he was found heavily intoxicated with alcohol. Prosecution said that incident was just one of many other previous ones, where he even fought Police officers.
During questioning, the judge asked prosecution if they had a toxicology report from qualified entity showing whether Kayumba was drunk on that day of arrest. The prosecutor said there was no such report.
The judge queried Kayumba as to how much power he had to be able to shutdown an airport, to which he responded that he just a journalist and university lecturer, both backgrounds that didn’t give him any ability to do anything of the sort to an airport.
The judge put to Kayumba as to whether he had indeed been arrested on several occasions while drunk. Kayumba told the judge in a lengthy submission that he had been arrested four times, all of which took place as he prepared to travel out of the country. Kayumba said he had air tickets to prove, and that except for the latest arrest, for the previous ones he was released without any charges or anyone explaining to him why he was arrested.
According to the prosecutor, whenever Kayumba is travelling, “he probably drinks all his mission money” before travelling.
Kayumba denied the prosecution narrative, wondering how police knew he was to travel, and for all the times, intercepted him around Chez Lando which is along the route from his home to the airport.
Kayumba also told the judge that before one of the arrests, as he prepared to head to airport, a senior official phoned him saying; “wowe n’icyo Kinyamakuru cyawe Chronicles ntimutarekeraho kudukora munda, ntimuzagira amahoro“.
This statement can be loosely translated as “if you and The Chronicles don’t stop grinding our stomachs, you will never have peace“.
The Chronicles has opted not to reveal the identity of the official who Kayumba named in court as the caller.
Dr Kayumba said there was a clear deliberate scheme to prevent him from travelling out of the country.
According to an itinerary put together by The Chronicles, on the fateful December 10 date, Kayumba arrived at the airport around 9am, for a 10:10 flight. He was refused access, with the explanation that it was past check-in time.
Despite efforts to explain to officers, he was ignored. He left the airport. Moments later, he posted on Twitter complaining bitterly about his situation. The Police responded that he had arrived late and actually made veiled threats.
What we also established is that Kayumba was not arrested at airport. Instead, was picked up hours later, following a Twitter explosion in reaction to the Police narrative that attracted wide support for the Force.
The Chronicles colleagues and family began searching for him the following day, as he had not communicated, which was unlike of Kayumba. He is always constantly in touch when travelling.
After failing to locate him at all police posts, colleagues and family retreated. It was December 13, three days later, that a colleague received a call informing him that Kayumba would appear at the Prosecutor’s office at the Kagarama court in Kigali.
It was from then that Kayumba was moved to the Kicukiro Police Station, and later to Mageragere prison after bail was denied.
In the court appearance today, the judge put it to Kayumba why he arrived late for a flight yet he was a regular traveler who was aware that check-in time was two hours before flight time.
Kayumba explained that airport rules globally stipulate that for travelers going to a regional destination, it was allowed to check in an hour before flight time. And that since he was travelling within region, the one hour arrival was within the permitted timeframe.
In his filing, Kayumba’s lawyer Me Ellie Mugenzi, prayed to court to acquit his client because prosecution had not adduced sufficient evidence beyond reasonable doubt that indeed he had committed the alleged cases.
Court has set July 29 for verdict.