Kagame critic 'not guilty' of inciting insurrection

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

Rwanda high court acquits Kagame critic, Diane Rwigara

Diane Rwigara, a critic of veteran Rwandan President Paul Kagame, was acquitted by Rwanda's high court on Thursday of charges that included inciting insurrection and forging of documents.

Charges were also dropped against Rwigara's mother Adeline, 59, and four others with whom she had exchanged WhatsApp messages accusing the government of killing her husband, Assinapol Rwigara, who died in a auto accident in 2015. "The court finds that the prosecution charges were baseless", said presiding judge Xavier Ndahayo.

Her attempt to stand against Kagame in the country's last presidential poll in August previous year was blocked after she was accused of not submitting enough supporters' signatures and that some of those she submitted were forged. She was arrested in September last year and held in jail for more than a year, until her release on bail in October. Umuhoza was convicted in 2013 for conspiring against the government.

Ms Rwigara's difficulties began when she declared her candidacy in Rwanda's 2017 presidential contest.

Their release came a month after the unexpected freeing of Victoire Ingabire, another woman who sought to run for the presidency in 2010.

"I am very happy with the court decision". "This is the beginning, because there's still a lot that needs to be done in our country". Everything I talked about in the past has not been resolved.

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

In its ruling, the High Court said the duo was not guilty of insurrection saying the State had failed to present enough evidence beyond reasonable doubt.

Assinapol was an influential industrialist who played an important role in financing the ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front (FPR) in the 1990s before later falling out with its leaders.

"The judgment must be a first step in reversing the ongoing trend of repression in Rwanda". Diane Rwigara was standing trial on charges of insurrection and forgery. "While we welcome their discharge and acquittal, we are concerned that the right to freedom of expression remains under attack in Rwanda", Amnesty International's Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes, Joan Nyanyuki said.

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.

On Tuesday, a commission of the US House of Representatives held a briefing on human rights and political prisoners in Rwanda, drawing attention to the Rwigaras.

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