Bail ruling set for Thursday
KIGALI - Embattled American defence lawyer, Prof. Peter Erlinder, yesterday appeared before the High Court in Kigali to appeal against the ruling by a lower court to be remanded in custody awaiting the beginning of his trial on charges of Genocide denial.
The Gasabo Intermediate Court had denied him bail on the basis that the charges against him are serious and there was strong evidence attesting to this.
The ten-hour session was presided over by High Court president, Johnston Busingye, who gave ample time to the appellant and his five-person defence team to plead their case by proving that the accused deserved the bail he was applying for.
Erlinder told court yesterday that: “Since the previous ruling, I have not had enough time with my lawyers, and up to now, they do not have clear facts about my health situation”.
He immediately requested for an hour to review the brief filed by the prosecution contesting his bail which was granted by the court.
Upon return, Erlinder tabled three medical certificates from various clinics in the United States indicating that he had brain tumor, cardiac difficulties and skin problems that are likely to develop into cancer.
He pleaded to the judge to conditionally release him and allow him to travel back to the United States for appropriate treatment saying that his health was deteriorating.
“Basing on these facts, I request the court grant me bail on humanitarian grounds so that I can travel to the U.S for treatment,” Erlinder requested during a session that was conducted in English.
On concerns whether he would return to Rwanda for trial if he is released on bail, Erlinder said: “I am not ashamed of coming back to clear my name.”
However, the case took a new twist when defence lawyer Gatera Gashabana, claimed that the Intermediate Court of Gasabo had no jurisdiction to try Erlinder.
“The law clearly states that a suspect is produced before the nearest court from where he or she is arrested; my client was arrested at Laico Umubano Hotel which is 30 kilometres away from the Court. There is the Kacyiru Primary Court that is in two kilometres away and this should have been the befitting jurisdiction,” argued Gashabana.
The prosecution team that was made up of Jean Bosco Mutangana and Bonavanture Ruberwa challenged Gashabana saying that the Gasabo court is in the territorial jurisdiction as stated by the law and hence competent to try the case.
Mutangana immediately read Erlinder’s charge sheet: “we accuse him of Genocide denial, minimizing the Genocide and trivialism. He has done all this on record in his speeches and publications.”
He hurriedly pointed out some phrases in the professor’s writings where he puts the word Genocide in inverted commas or prefers to call what happened in Rwanda as ‘terrible massacres’, ‘horrific events’, ‘massive civilian killings’, ‘civilian-civilian massacres’.
“We agree with the cardinal principles of the law, but our argument remains the same; we want Prof. Erlinder to remain in custody basing on the fact that he is part of a global network of Genocide deniers from the United States, Belgium, Holland and many other countries,” said Mutangana.
“At this stage, he has a coordinated group that has vowed to rewrite the history of the Genocide…he is obsessed with identity denial and providing intellectual cover for the Genocide deniers,” said Mutangana.
Prosecution also challenged the authenticity of the medical documents produced by Erlinder, saying that they did not come into the country through proper channels.
“He has a clear pattern of dishonesty, and the medical certificates he is providing are contrary to the medical tests at King Faisal Hospital,” said the prosecutor.
In the course of the session, the prosecutor informed court that Erlinder recently feigned illness when he claimed he had ear pains, but surprisingly doctors found he had stuffed toilet tissue in one of his ears.
In his defence, Erlinder said that he was sleeping in a cell that had mosquitoes so he decided to stuff his ears with tissue paper to ward off the noise.
The court session that had started early morning ended late in the evening with Judge Busingye setting Thursday 17, for the bail ruling.