The case of detained former University of Rwanda (UR) computer science lecturer Aimable Karasira has taken a new twist.
Appearing today virtually for hearing of his bail application, Karasira made an allegation which will open a new direction for his case, at least in the court of public opinion.
Karasira was arrested May 31. The state is charging him with denying the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi yet he is a genocide survivor himself. Another charge is illicit enrichment in relation to nearly Rwf 40m in different currencies that was found in his house and on phone. The state says he cannot explain source of that money.
Karasira’s cases are connected to his popular YouTube channel “Ukuri Mbona” (The Truth As I see It). He had made some of the most shocking comments there including even blaming death of his family during the genocide on the RPF rebels led at the time by President Paul Kagame.
Appearing this Friday from a Rwanda Investigations Bureau (RIB) facility, Karasira defended himself against the charge on illicit enrichment. It was part of his defense on the money, that is going to open a pandora’s box.
First, he said that the state seems to suggest that he is not supposed to have a lot of money. Karasira said some of the money was given to him by well-wishers after he was controversially dismissed from UR.
An online fundraising was indeed conducted for him by Rwandan exiles, raising more than Rwf 15m.
Karasira also said some of the money had been payment effected by YouTube from proceeds of his channel’s viewership.
Donning an unusual beard, Karasira alleged that about a million of the money had been given to him by person working with RIB who he didn’t name. Apparently, the person asked him to criticise “enemies” of government. Karasira didn’t give specifics, but it will likely be a major aspect of his defense.
It will be interesting to know when the alleged RIB person approached him and what specific “enemies” he was was to target. However, his court submission appears to fit with a period when Karasira suddenly began being very critical of the opposition, most of them exiled – describing them as having no tangible plan for the country. On social media, some responded with fury to his comments yet they had fundraised to help him.
In the virtual court session, Karasira who was with his two lawyers including renowned criminal attorney Gatera Gashabana, and Evode Kayitana, asked court to grant him bail so that he could continue with his treatment for mental illness.
Whether Karasira suffers from chronic mental illness also became a heated issue in court. His lawyers asked court not to consider the mental examination report done by prosecution.
The prosecution’s report done by state-hired doctors confirms that indeed Karasira has mental illness, but that the situation can be handled even when he is in prison.
The report further quashes the notion supposedly made by Karasira that many of comments on his YouTube channel, which are the source of his charges, were made when he was not in stable medical state mentally. The report says Karasira’s mental illness doesn’t affect his sound reasoning.
The defense lawyers say the report was prepared by doctors as armed Police stood over them. The lawyers wanted court to base on Karasira personal doctor who had been treating him for many years.
However, court dismissed the defense teams’ submission and allowed the prosecution’s medical report as evidence. Court said it had been compiled by trained personnel with the required competence.
When asked to comment on the other charges, Karasira touched on the genocide denial charge. The charge sheet says he claimed on his YouTube channel that the 1994 genocide was not prepared. Instead, says prosecution, that the genocide was a result of the killing of President Juvenal Habyarimana on April 6 when his plane was shot down as it approached Kigali airport.
Prosecution said, for Karasira, the genocidal government committed genocide as a way of fighting back and defending itself against the advancing RPF rebels.
Prosecution also put to court that Karasira had spread false information that alleged ‘genocide financer’ billionaire Felicien Kabuga had been targeted because he refused to channel money to the RPF during its war between 1990-1994. The other thing, Prosecution says Karasira said Kabuga had also been targeted as away to put him away so that his properties are confiscated.
Kabuga was arrested in Paris in May 2020 after being on the run for years, and is currently at the UN court for Rwanda operating from the Hague. However, the charge of Kabuga financing the genocide with importation of millions crude farm tools like machetes that were used by rampaging interahamwe militia, has been dropped from the charge sheet.
The comments which prosecution says Karasira made about Kabuga are not new. Kabuga’s family and exiled politicians have made them for many years especially on social media.
However, in his defense, Karasira told court on Friday that even though he made those comments when not in a good mental state as he had not taken his medication for sometime, the information he provided was truth.
Karasira said that he believed the timing of those comments is what was not right, and that the comments were over-exaggerated. But that much of the information was true, and that he would have preferred to say then in a different way.
Karasira said even if the time isn’t right to raise the things he is being charged for, time will come when a new government is in power and that information will come out.
In his closing statement, Karasira said the law is irrelevant in Rwanda. Instead, that it is directives that are followed. He said that if those who give those directives wanted him to be released, he would be immediately.
“It is up to them”, he added, “to either imprison me for as long as Nelson Mandela stayed in jail, or let me go.”
The verdict on Karasira bail application will be issued on Tuesday next week.