KIGALI - The High Court yesterday granted bail on medical grounds to embattled American defence lawyer, Prof. Peter Erlinder.
Pronouncing the bail ruling yesterday, High Court president, Johnston Busingye, said that the court had considered the medical documents presented by Erlinder in his bail appeal which indicate that indeed he has a history of grave medical problems requiring urgent attention and do not permit him to stay in jail.
Busingye in his ruling said that the documents submitted by three doctors who treated Erlinder for various medical problems, is sufficient evidence that the appellant is in ill health and it would be inhuman for the court to keep him in detention.
“Having referred to all circumstances of the case, and without dwelling further into all the appellant’s physical and mental records, I have sufficient reasons to believe that here is a case of the accused still at the pre-trial phase---you need to have relevant positions because physical and mental health must take precedent in the case in question,” Busingye said.
“It would be unjust for court to keep his life at the risk of mortality and morbidity as suggested by doctors”.
Erlinder, 62 who was in hospital at the time of the ruling, will continue to face charges of Genocide denial and revisionism.
Busingye said that the prosecution has strong reasons to suspect that Erlinder, has a strong case against him, but his state of health could not allow him to stay in detention.
He, however, rejected the other arguments Erlinder and his defence team were basing on to appeal for bail which, including lack of competence of Gasabo Intermediate Court which denied Erlinder bail, saying that the court has the competence and territorial jurisdiction.
He judged that court falls within the territory where he was arrested and that lower courts have the legal authority to hear pre-trial cases without going into the substance of the case.
Busingye disregarded the argument that the ruling was made in Kinyarwanda, arguing that in the bail hearing, an interpreter was provided but the bail hearing did not require any interpretation and the judge is required to make a ruling in a language he understands better and is comfortable with.
He noted that one of his counsels was asked to interpret for his client.
At the same time, the High Court Judge also disregarded the letter from the International Criminal Tribunal of Rwanda (ICTR) submitted by Erlinder defence asking court to release him because he had immunity.
Busingye said that the letter has no value because it was not addressed to the High Court but the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
He said that Erlinder will be required to report to court and prosecution at any time, and also provide the necessary information to facilitate investigations as well as his address at the time.
His defence team welcomed the outcome of the case saying that their client’s state of health is worrying.
Meanwhile, the Prosecutor General Martin Ngoga said that the decision to grant Erlinder bail is because of concerns for his physical and mental state and will in no way deter the prosecution process or even diminish the seriousness of the charges.
“Bail on health grounds cannot be mistaken as vindication for Mr. Erlinder, it just proves that the justice system he so freely criticises, was willing to show him compassion with respect to his physical and mental well being,” said the Prosecutor General.