Rwandan dissident 'not guilty' of inciting insurrection

08 December, 2018, 19:33 | Author: Myra Gill
  • Diane Rwigara: Woman faced 22 years in jail for criticising her government

A Rwandan court acquitted an aspiring presidential contender and fierce critic of President Paul Kagame of charges of inciting a public insurrection and forging electoral documents.

The acquittal of Diane Rwigara and her mother Adeline could be seen a significant step in Rwanda's democracy.

The Rwandan ministry of justice said it respected the verdict and would "carefully study its implications", though it added: "We condemn all attempts by external actors to inappropriately influence judicial processes in Rwanda".

President Paul Kagame faces a flood of worldwide criticism for his spiteful pursuit of a political opponent that included auctioning her personal assets.

Meanwhile she and her mother spent over a year in prison before their release on bail in October.

The court also ruled that Ms Rwigara's criticism of government through press conferences was freedom of speech which was guaranteed by both the constitution and global law.

"I am very happy with the court decision". "I plan to continue my political career because what I was advocating for hasn't changed, especially poverty in the country".

Diane Rwigara: Woman faced 22 years in jail for criticising her government
Rwandan court acquits the Rwigaras

Rwigara and her mother were arrested ahead of Rwanda's August 2017 presidential election. She - just like Ms Rwigara - had meant to run for president against Paul Kagame, back in 2010.

Rwigara's father, a prominent businessman who was once close to the ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front (RFP), was killed in a road accident in 2015.

The government in September pardoned thousands of prisoners, including an opposition party leader and a political activist, and several analysts said Kagame was loosening the country's political space.

The 37-year-old Rwigara, who had denounced the charges as politically motivated, had faced 22 years in prison if convicted.

Kagame has won worldwide praise for presiding over a peaceful and rapid economic recovery in Rwanda since the genocide that killed an estimated 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus. But he is also accused of extreme authoritarianism, including pursuing dissidents who have fled the country.

Since her arrest, Rwigara's brothers and sister have been interrogated, family assets have forcibly been auctioned to pay off a multi-million dollar tax claim, while a hotel they owned was demolished for allegedly failing to abide by city guidelines.


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