Musanze Intermediate Court on Wednesday, January 29, ruled in favour of Augustin Ndabereye, the former Musanze district vice mayor in charge of economic development, to allow his substantive trial to proceed behind closed doors.
Ndabereye faces two charges of assault and battery and harassment of his spouse, and has been in custody since August last year.
The crime of assault and battery took place during the night of August 29 last year at the couple’s home in Musanze town.
He had earlier sought bail having appealed against a decision by Muhoza Primary Court to remand him, pending further investigation before the substantive trial.
The accused had told court that if granted bail, he would stay out of his matrimonial home, saying he would rent a separate house.
He had also offered sureties including his parents, friends and relatives whom court rejected after they failed to produce certificates of good conduct.
Wearing the pink prison attire, Ndabereye first told court that he was not ready for the substantive trial, saying that he had lodged an appeal at high court seeking bail.
The defendant tried to persuade court that he had not prepared himself for the substantive trial as he was rather preparing for his bail trial that he sought High Court Detached Chamber of Musanze.
After some minutes of deliberations behind closed doors, court dismissed the plea by Ndabereye as invalid and ruled that the trial commences in substance, pending the ruling by high court.
The substantive trial subsequently begun with the defendant being told charges he allegedly committed.
However, Ndabereye and his lawyer Donath Habimana requested that the trial proceeds in camera saying that there were “family secrets” the defendants wanted to spill out to help his defence case.
He said that it is better the general public is locked out of the trial is held in camera to preserve the privacy the family is entitled to by the laws.
Ndabereye also said that having the trial open to the public may constrain defence witnesses to speak freely.
Prosecution challenged Ndabereye’s submission saying that his trial did not meet the threshold to be granted that request because there was no likelihood that these details would jeopardize national security nor community order.
Asked the main reason he was reluctant to have the substantive trial in public, Ndabereye noted; “my spouse will have to explain herself as part of this trial and some family privacy will be divulged.”
Basing on the article 131 of the National Constitution, Siphonie Munyamahoro the presiding judge endorsed the request by Ndabereye and his lawyer and ordered all those who attended the trial to leave the court room.
Munyamahoro announced that the next hearings will also be taking place behind closed doors.
Wednesday’s hearing had attracted many people including women rights activists, representatives of civil society organisations and journalists among others.
Following the ruling on the matter by the judge, all spectators were ushered out and the trial continued in camera.
The trial was concluded in the afternoon, after both sides were heard, and the judge set the ruling on February 27.
Ndabereye was relieved of his duties on September 3 together with his former boss, Jean-Damascène Habyarimana and the vice mayor for social affairs, Marie-Claire Uwamariya.
The trio was fired by the District Advisory Council over a litany of offenses including corruption, failure to execute the district master plan, poor service delivery, and gross misconduct.