Four men who had been acquitted on charges of defilement are back in court, this time in the Supreme Court.
The High Court Chamber of Rwamagana had previously acquitted Thomas Mugabe, alias Mabati, Sostène Ndibwami, Alexis Kagame and David Murekezi, overturning a 2014 conviction by the Nyagatare Intermediate Court for which they had been handed a 10-year jail term each.
Prosecution on Tuesday implored the Supreme Court to nullify the High Court Chamber’s verdicts, and instead reinstate the earlier sentences by the Nyagatare court.
The suspects had their initial convictions overturned after supplying court with evidence that showed the alleged victims were adults and had consented.
Four girls had testified in court against their alleged abusers, said to be part of a group of well-off men who were luring young girls in Nyagatare, Eastern Province into sexual relations.
Prosecutor Gaspard Rudatinya said they appealed the case because the Rwamagana High Court Chamber did not decide on defilement as a subject matter of the case.
He said the men had presented forged documents to prove that the girls were aged 18 or above, citing a case involving one of the alleged victims whose mother was allegedly tricked into lying about her daughter’s age.
She had been told that her daughter was in prison in Rwanda and the only way to get her out was to prove that she was aged above 18, he told court.
The girls’ mother, who was staying in Uganda, helped to acquire a forged birth certificate stating the wrong age, he said.
However, Rudatinya said, she later provided evidence to the contrary after establishing that she had been used to deny her daughter justice.
She presented an immunisation card to prove that she was indeed a minor, the prosecutor told court.
However, the suspects and their lawyers prayed to Supreme Court to uphold the latest ruling insisting that the Rwamagana court was thorough and fair in its analysis of the case.
“Our appeal was to prove that the girls in question were over 18 years and that’s exactly what we did and the court delivered its ruling accordingly,” he said.
He argued that the High Court Chamber could not examine elements that did not constitute the basis of the case itself.
The case was adjourned to Monday, May 27.