Iwacu journalists sentenced to two years and six months in prison

On Thursday 30 January, the long-awaited verdict for Agnès, Christine, Egide, Térence and their driver Adolphe, was rendered. These four media professionals were sentenced to two years and 6 months in prison.

The four Iwacu journalists during the trial on December 30.

Following a public hearing held in Bubanza High Court, only Adolphe, the driver who had been provisionally released for a month, obtained an acquittal. The materials seized from the defendants (vehicle, telephones, recorder, camera and notebooks) will be handed over to Iwacu newspaper. The four journalists from Iwacu who were absent during the hearing, have not yet received any notification of their judgment.

According to sources present on the spot, in rendering their verdict, the judges of Bubanza High Court relied on article 16 of the Penal Code which stipulates that “there is an impossible attempt when a potential offender did everything possible to commit an offense but the latter could not be carried out because of an impossibility which s/he was unaware of.”

Flashback on a series of judicial decisions

On Tuesday October 22, around noon, Christine Kamikazi, Agnès Ndirubusa, Térence Mpozenzi, Egide Harerimana and their driver Adolphe Masabarakiza, go to Bubanza to investigate reported clashes in Bubanza province. Such information had been circulating on social media since the morning of that Tuesday.

When they arrive on the field, they are apprehended before they have even started their work. Their work equipment and mobile telephones get seized.

They will spend their first three nights in the dungeon of the provincial police station in Bubanza before being transported to the municipal police station. They will spend there a sleepless night in cramped cells where it’s impossible to move. No charges have so far been brought against them.

On Saturday, October 26, four days since they got arrested, after they are heard by the investigating judge at the

The High Court of Bubanza

Bubanza prosecutor’s office, the prosecutor indicted them for “complicity in undermining the internal security of the state.” They will be immediately transferred to Bubanza prison.

Thursday, October 31
, the Bubanza Prosecutor’s Office announces the continued pre-trial detention of Agnès, Christine, Egide, Térence and Adolphe.
Wednesday, November 20, the Ntahangwa Court of Appeal decides to uphold the decision of the Bubanza prosecution: the four journalists are to be kept in preventive detention. Only the driver will be provisionally released.

On December 30
, during a public hearing held at Bubanza High Court, the public prosecutor requests that the four journalists of Iwacu newspaper and their driver be incarcerated for 15 years for “complicity attempt in undermining the internal security of the State”.

A WhatsApp message from Agnès to a colleague had particularly caught the attention of the judges. She had written: “We are going to Musigati ‘to support the rebels.”
“This is a material element proving the complicity of four Iwacu journalists and their driver with the rebels,” said the Bubanza prosecutor.

Agnès Ndirubusa, a graduate in law, a senior journalist and head of the political service at Iwacu, explained that this message sent to one of her colleagues is to be placed within the register of black humor to de-stress.

“We have our own language. This message should not be dissociated from its context and it should not be taken word by word. If a mother tells her child that she is going to kill him, everyone knows that she will not do it,” she defends herself.

She continued to say that “the public prosecution only referred to this message by omitting another one in which I say that ” we are going to fight these people who want to disturb peace and elections ” (Tugiye gutuza abo bantu bashaka guhungabanya amahoro n’ugutoba amatora).

“The truth will eventually triumph”

Contacted, Antoine Kaburahe, founder of Iwacu, said he was” shocked” and “saddened “by the judgment rendered. “For three months, we have kept confidence in the justice system from which we hoped for an acquittal of our colleagues who were only doing their job, “he said. While speaking of injustice in relation to this sentence, he calls on the journalists of Iwacu not to despair. “We will appeal as the law allow and will continue our fight for the release of our dear colleagues,” he said determinedly. Mr Kaburahe still hopes that “justice will take the just decision sooner or later” and that “the truth and freedom will end up triumphing.”
Finally, the founder of this independent media thanks friends and supporters of Iwacu and asks them “to remain mobilized in the face of a justice that is still far from making the right decisions.”

                                                                                                   Story written by Alphonse Yikeze and translated

into English by Pierre Emmanuel Ngendakumana