An elephant tusks trafficker who is serving a ten-year jail term has claimed a police officer had recruited him as an informer that could lead to the arrest of prime suspects.
Révérien Nshimiyimana was on Monday appearing before the Court of Appeal in Kigali after he appealed against the sentence along with his two co-accused.
The two others, Saidi Ndahayo and Emile Mutsindashyaka, recently benefited from a presidential pardon following a light sentence of four years (over the same case) they had been handed after they pleaded guilty.
Both of Nshimiyimana’s co-accused withdrew their appeal in the same court session yesterday.
The trio was arrested two years ago in Kirehe District and sentenced by the High Court Chamber of Rwamagana in December last year for trading in protected endangered animal species.
Nshimiyimana, through his lawyer Diogène Niyibizi, claimed that the High Court of Rwamagana did not bother to consider certain evidence of his innocence in the case.
The former taxi driver in Kigali claimed that he joined the elephant tusks trafficking in Eastern Province on a mission he was given by one Ezekiel Twagiramungu. He alleges the latter was a police officer who was investigating the crime.
“I was working for a police officer Ezekiel who tasked me to trace down the elephant tusks traffickers and the source of their merchandise. He told me the police would pay us,” he claimed.
“Ezekiel and I were arrested with the criminals but we never signed the exhibits statement which others did because he told the police that we were working together,” he told the court.
The bench wanted to know from Nshimiyimana about his relationship with the alleged police officer Twagiramungu.
He said he knows Twagiramungu as a resident of Kinyinya in Kigali and his client as a taxi driver in Kigali.
“Sometimes he would borrow my car or hire me to several places,” he said.
Jean Damascène Habineza, the Prosecutor, dismissed the defence saying that if Nshimiyimana’s claim for collaborating with the police was true, he would have brought it up in the initial stages of his trial.
He added that the fact Nshimiyimana was chosen by the alleged police officer in the hunt of other criminals was evidence of being involved in the trafficking himself.
“Why would Ezekiel (alleged police officer) spot you as a perfect match to catch the traffickers and how were you able to execute Ezekiel’s mission?” prosecution asked wondering why police would want him punished if he really acted in the interest of the police.
Police to be summoned
The judge decided that they will summon representatives of Rwanda National Police as well as the police officer in question to ascertain whether he is a police officer who was on duty and worked with the defendant in tracing the criminals.
The next hearing was scheduled for November 29.