The trial of the Managing Editor of Umuseso, Didas Gasana, and his co-accused, Richard Kayigamba, yesterday turned into a war of words between the duo and the President of the Nyarugenge Court of First Instance, Fidele Bazihana.
The two, alongside their colleague Charles Kabonero, who was absent, are accused of defamation and invasion of privacy by the Minister for Cabinet Affairs, Protais Musoni.
The drama began when Gasana requested the court to postpone their trial for lack of sufficient time to find a lawyer.
The Court President insisted that the accused had been given enough time to find a lawyer and were only using wasting court’s time by coming up with the excuse again. Bazihana declared that the verdict will be read mid February.
“Your honour, I feel that justice is what brought us all here today. I would therefore like to request the court to grant me my right to request for more time to find a lawyer to represent us,” Gasana said
Bazihana turned down the request and reminded the defendants the procedures that determine the legitimacy of their request.
“I am denying you the request for more time because usually such a request is made at the beginning of the trial,” he said
Gasana then informed the court of his team’s decision not to be part of the trial due to lack of legal counsel.
“I know that you have made up your mind about denying us our request, but I would like to emphasize the fact that we cannot continue with the trial without a lawyer,” he said
Bazihana stood his ground reminding the duo that there were no valid reasons why the trial could not continue.
The Prosecution pointed out that they had provided evidence implicating Gasana, Kayigamba and Kabonero and requested for penalties ranging from one year in jail to imposing a ban on the newspaper.
“According to Article 80 of the media law on invasion of privacy, we would like to request that each one of the three accused pays a total sum of five million Francs in damages,” prosecution said
Article 80 says, “Without prejudice to the provisions of penal laws, any person interfering with one’s privacy using the press shall be liable to a fine ranging from one million francs to five million francs. However, where a journalist publishes facts on authority’s privacy that has an impact on the country’s public life, he or she shall not be punished,”
Prosecution also requested for the closure of Umuseso newspaper citing article 94 of the media law.
Prosecution cited the cases in which Umuseso has been implicated including the one that involved the Vice Speaker of Parliament, Polisi Denis and the city tycoon, Tribert Rujugiro.
Umuseso lost the Polisi case and is next month appearing in court to appeal in Rujugiro’s case which it had also lost. Rujugiro requested $ 120,000 in damages.
The Prosecution requested that, in circumstances where Gasana and team lose the case, the trio be immediately imprisoned to prevent their escape.
Immediately after the trial, Gasana told The New Times that his team was waiting for the verdict before it could react.
“We are waiting for the results, but of course, this is total miscarriage of justice. It’s our constitutional right to have a lawyer. How can a court deny us that right?” he wondered
Bazihana informed the court that the verdict in the trial of Umuseso Vs Protais Musoni will be read on February 22, 2010.