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Rwanda boy avoids prison term over cannabis sale

by kenya-tribune

KIGALI, Rwanda, Feb 3 – A 14-year-old Rwandan boy avoided a prison sentence for selling cannabis, after a court sentenced him to a two-year suspended jail term and ordered his immediate release from police custody.

The teenager was arrested in November and admitted to selling cannabis, with prosecutors demanding a “lenient” 10-year sentence instead of the customary punishment ranging from 20 years to life imprisonment.

A three-judge bench at a court in the capital Kigali announced the ruling, with one of the judges saying: “Given his young age, the court sentences him to a two-year suspended term and a penalty of one million Rwandan francs ($916).”

Prosecutors had argued that the boy had a long history of selling cannabis, with his mother currently serving a 15-year sentence for drug possession and his father on the run from the authorities in connection with the same crime.

“Under Rwanda law, a child of 14 can be held criminally liable,” the prosecution said on Twitter on Wednesday.

“His age and (his) family’s situation were taken into consideration by (the) prosecution during the court hearing.”

Neither the boy nor his lawyers were present in court on Friday.

When he was arrested last year, police recovered 51 cannabis pellets during a search of his home.

Although Rwanda has legalised the cultivation and use of cannabis for medicinal purposes, recreational consumption remains illegal with long jail terms and harsh penalties levelled against anyone who grows, distributes or consumes it.

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