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Jailed Rwandan journalists in court appeals.

Rwandan: A Rwandan editor and a reporter, serving jail terms of 17 and seven years for genocide denial and inciting civil unrest, launched an appeal Monday before the supreme court.

Agnes Uwimana Nkusi, the editor of the Umurabyo monthly, was convicted in February 2011 of defamation, causing divisions and denying Rwanda s 1994 genocide, and given 17 years in jail.

Saidati Mukakibibi, the publication s reporter, was found guilty of incitement to civil disobedience and handed seven years in prison.

"The judgment was kind of out-of-pace with the rest of the policies Rwanda is developing," Nani Jansen of the London-based Media Legal Defense Initiative, who is part of the seven-member team representing Nkusi and Mukakibibi, said Monday.

"The country is claiming they want to promote freedom of press, have an open, democratic society but to do that you have to have a strong media," Jansen said.

Prosecutors had asked for a 33-year sentence for Nkusi and 12 years for Mukakibibi.

The charges stem from various articles published last year criticising land reforms and the local grass-roots courts, known as gacaca, trying genocide suspects.

Lead defence counsel is London-based attorney John Jones and the legal team also includes lawyers from London-based freedom of speech group Article 19 and Brussels based Lawyers without Borders.

"The tide has turned and, from the point of view of foreign jurisdictions, Rwanda is now a place where you can have a fair trial," Jones told AFP Monday.

"There is now confidence in Rwandan criminal justice. That s why (it s) all the more important that in this case the judgment is fair, just and proportionate."

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Publication:Times of Oman (Muscat, Oman)
Geographic Code:6RWAN
Date:Jan 30, 2012
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