Rwanda High Court clears opposition leader of charges
- The 37-year-old accountant's arrest came after she tried to run against Paul Kagame in the country's July 2017 presidential election.
- Rwigara was not allowed to run after accusations she allegedly forged signatures of supporters.
- The insurrection charge against Rwigara stems from critical comments she made against Kagame and his government before the election.
- Human rights groups accuse Kagame of suppressing the media, political opposition and other abuses.
Rwanda high court has acquitted opposition leader Diane Rwigara of charges that included forgery and inciting insurrection.
Rwigara, the country’s highest-profile opposition figure, was imprisoned after her arrest in September 2017.
The 37-year-old accountant’s arrest came after she tried to run against Paul Kagame in the country’s July 2017 presidential election. Rwigara was not allowed to run after accusations she allegedly forged signatures of supporters.
The insurrection charge against Rwigara stems from critical comments she made against Kagame and his government before the election.
She repeatedly accused Kagame of stifling dissent and denounced Kagame’s Rwandan Patriotic Front’s tight control of the country since it assumed control after ending genocide in the east African country in 1994.
“All charges … have been dropped,” the three judge panel said in their ruling. “The court finds that the prosecution charges were baseless.”
Rwigara said after the ruling she was “very happy” with the decision and vowed to continue her “political journey.”
“There are still many political prisoners in the country,” Rwigara added.
Rwigara’s mother and daughter also were acquitted of inciting insurrection and promoting discrimination.
Both women denied all charges that were placed against them.
Rwigara is a rare public critic of Kagame’s government and her case has drawn international attention. There is mounting global pressure on Kagame to ease restrictions on critics in the highly controlled country.
Human rights groups accuse Kagame of suppressing the media, political opposition and other abuses. But he also has won international praise for engineering a peaceful and rapid economic recovery after the genocide that killed some 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus.
The Rawandan government said in a statement it “respects the court’s verdict” and will “carefully study its implications.”
The government also said it “will continue to vigorously enforce our laws on electoral integrity, public safety, and respect for the judiciary.”
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