A group of nine people including YouTuber are being prosecuted for attending online training where they studied how to ‘peacefully remove government’.
Journalist and YouTuber Theoneste Nsengimana who has news site and YouTube channel, both called UMUBAVU, is being charged together with other 8 people including a woman.
The eight are members of DALFA-UMURINZI, a political group of Ingabire Victoire Umuhoza, the opposition politician who was given clemency by President Kagame in September 2018. She had served 8yrs of a 15-year sentence for funding FDLR militia and other charges.
All the accused were arrested October 13, and have since attended two court sessions. They want bail, but government prosecutors want them detained for the customary 30 days as investigations continue.
In appearance today, prosecution gave rare details of the case against the suspects. It is alleged that they attended online training facilitated by people outside Rwanda where they were taught how to engage in acts aimed at ousting government using peaceful means.
The training allegedly included how to organise demonstrations, boycotting government programs, not buying goods and services from government-associated companies, dodging property and land taxes.
Prosecution claims the trainees were to use those skills to mobilize population against government. They were to mobilize Moto taxi riders and hawkers (abazunguzayi) to resist government interference, distribute tracts in population that call on them to raise up against beatings by government agencies, disappearances, and paying exorbitant taxes.
Among the charges the suspects face is forming criminal organisation, spreading rumours to instigate uprising against government, and undermining government among the population.
The training held September 13, was attended by 10 people, according to prosecution. However, one pulled out midway and reported the activity to the authorities, said the case prosecutor.
It had been planned that the training would culminated into an event on October 14, called “Ingabire Day”. On that day, it had been scheduled that activities would be held and aired live on UMUBAVU TV, the YouTube channel of journalist Nsengimana. They were arrested a day before.
Among the suspects is Sylvain Sibomana, a longtime member of political groups founded by Ingabire. He spent 8 years in jail over similar charges, and finished his sentence this past February.
In court today, however, he said he didn’t know the training had a sinister agenda. He said he had explained everything during interrogation and even apologized for organizing the training.
He says he was sent Rwf 260,000 ($260) by someone he identified as Assumpta, based outside Rwanda. He used the money to mobilize people to take part and provided the logistics like internet.
Star criminal attorney Me. Gatera Gashabana, the defense lawyer dismissed prosecution claims over the training, saying they were fabricating cases where there were not.
Gatera said the Journalist particularly has no case to answer and his detention is illegal. He said the detention infringes on the Journalist’s rights to publish information and news.
However, prosecution in response said there was no law that gives immunity to journalists against prosecution for criminal acts.
All the suspects want to be granted bail. The Kicukiro primary court will render decision this Friday Nov 5.