Kigali, 13 February 2008 (FH) - Two Rwandan prominent journalists were handed down last Friday a suspended sentence of two years in prison for slander by the first instance court of Nyarugenge district, Kigali reports Hirondelle Agency.

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The two--Director of the Umuseso (meaning Dawn) newspaper Charles Kabonero and his journalist, Didace Gasana, will also have to pay a million Rwandan Francs (approximately 2,000 USD) for damages, in addition to 40, 000 Rwandan Francs (approximately 80 USD) being court expenses.

They had asked the court for 150 000 USD in damages for the defamatory articles.

The two journalists have said they intend to appeal against the sentence.

They were prosecuted by Mr Tribert Rujugiro Ayabatwa, a Rwandan businessman who was accused of having dodged taxes in South Africa and of having allegedly practiced fraudulent trade. The articles were published in the newspaper Umuseso No 283 and 284, in June 2007.

The businessman claimed that the allegations were untrue as he had a right of exemption and a trial is in progress over the issue.

According to his lawyers, the articles made Mr Ayabatwa suffer a great prejudice with his partners and his businesses were severely affected.

The Umuseso weekly, one of most critical and highly read in Rwanda, interrupted its publication today.

© Hirondelle News Agency