Kalisa, Rutagwenda acquitted
NYARUGENGE - The Nyarugenge High Court has found a local newspaper publisher guilty of extortion and sentenced him to two years of imprisonment. Two of his co-accused were acquitted and immediately released.
Hundreds had thronged the courtroom on Friday to witness the ruling in the blackmail case involving two journalists and another accomplice. The trio had last week lost an appeal seeking a provisional release.
The court ruled that Assouman Niyonambaza, the publisher of Rugari, Kinyarwanda language tabloid, was guilty of extortion. It also acquitted popular radio host, Frank Kalisa and Richard Rutagwenda.
Kalisa, better known by his studio name of ‘K’, hosts an early morning programme at Contact FM, while Rutagwenda is a civil servant.
“Niyonambaza willingly solicited for money so he could not publish a story he claimed to have, though he preferred to tell lies in front of the court about the issue,” read Judge Xavier Sendahangarwa Macumu who presided over the trial.
During the trial in substance, hard-talking Niyonambaza consistently denied accusations against him, saying the Rwf 200,000 he obtained was for an advertising space meant for a local restaurant named Horizon Garden.
However, testimonies given by Fred Muhirwa, the manager of the said restaurant, proved that there had never been an advert deal between them and Rugari newspaper.
All the three were cleared of corruption charges. After the ruling, Niyonambaza said he was determined to appeal the case.
Both Niyonambaza and his two alleged accomplices had repeatedly pleaded innocence, alleging that the whole case was a plot planned and executed by the police in a move to tarnish the names of the accused.
Jubilation as “K” goes free
It took Judge Sindahangarwa more than a minute to calm down the multitude of supporters who immediately jumped and cried with excitement as Kalisa’s innocence was pronounced.
The court decided that Kalisa had no linkage to the distortion case, since his only intention was to bring into contact Niyonambaza and Richard Rutagwenda, while the latter’s intention was also to bring into contact Rugari’s publisher and the victim of the extortion who the court only referred to as ‘X’.
K was immediately lifted by supporters out of the courtroom, most of whom were laughing, singing and crying with joy.
“Words cannot clearly express what I feel,” said overjoyed Jeanne de Chantal Mugabushaka, better known as Eminente, who also used to work at Contact FM.
“I am so happy. At least now we can see that justice can prevail in this country.”
Those were also the emotions of both Kalisa and Rutagwenda’s defence lawyers Theophile Kazeneza and Yussuf Kamanzi who all welcomed the ruling.
The trio had been arrested on July 1 following Prosecution’s allegations that accused them of corruption and extortion.
After sitting for their trial in substance on July 8, they were immediately sent to Kigali Central Prison (1930), from where they filed an appeal requesting a provisional release which was turned down last week by the High Court of Nyamirambo.