TowerPostNews: Kagame Critic Diane Rwigara Acquitted

08 December, 2018, 19:35 | Author: Wade Massey
  • Diane Rwigara: Woman faced 22 years in jail for criticising her government

A prominent government critic and her mother have been acquitted by Rwanda's high court of politically motivated charges including inciting insurrection and forging documents.

Rwigara's case has drawn global attention as Kagame again faces pressure to give more space to critics in the tightly controlled East African country.

"We find that the prosecution charges do not have a basis and find Diane Rwigara and Adeline Rwigara not guilty on all charges", read a three-judge verdict.

Since her arrest, Rwigara's brothers and sister have been interrogated, family assets were forcibly auctioned off to pay off a multimillion-dollar tax claim and a hotel they owned was demolished for allegedly failing to abide by city guidelines. Excited relatives who had prayed before the hearing for protection swarmed them with hugs. "This is the beginning, because there's still a lot that needs to be done in our country".

U.S. Representative Suzanne Bonamici told the BBC after meeting with the government that despite Rwanda's progress, political and civil rights violations shouldn't be masked.

But it added: "We condemn all attempts by external actors to inappropriately influence judicial processes in Rwanda".

But it is also hard to ignore the fact that there was worldwide pressure, including from the US Congress, to drop charges against her - not that Rwandan authorities are in the habit of listening to external voices.

Diane Rwigara: Woman faced 22 years in jail for criticising her government

Amnesty International welcomed the court's decision.

Ingabire leads an unregistered opposition party, the FDU-Inkigi, and she was freed along with several other prisoners, including singer Kizito Mihigo, convicted and jailed in 2015 for plotting to kill Kagame.

Speaking to The Associated Press ahead of her court appearance, Rwigara remained defiant, saying no amount of pressure will silence her.

"I hope to be cleared of all these made-up charges but I am ready for any outcome", she said earlier this week.

Authorities reject the criticism and point to the landlocked country's economic revival since the coming to power of Kagame, a former rebel leader who ended the genocide in which about 800,000 people died. His government rejects such accusations. "There are still many political prisoners in the country", Diane Rwigara said after the ruling.

Ms Rwigara was imprisoned for over a year, after being barred from running in presidential elections against the long-standing incumbent Paul Kagame. Soon after she announced her intention to run, nude photos purportedly of her that she said had been manipulated were published on social media in what her supporters called an effort to undermine her credibility.

It also ruled that although the documents presented to the national electoral commission had indications of forged signatures, it was upon the prosecution to prove that she personally meant to forge the signatures, which it did not. Kagame won a third term in office with 98% of the vote.

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