Friday, 14 December, 2018

Diane Rwigara: Rwanda government critic acquitted

Diane Rwigara: Woman faced 22 years in jail for criticising her government Rwanda high court acquits Kagame critic, Diane Rwigara
Deanna Wagner | 08 December, 2018, 19:35

"I am very happy with the verdict", Rwigara told journalists after the high court ruling on Thursday.

Diane Rwigara, an outspoken young politician, was an unusual voice of criticism in tightly run Rwanda before the August 2017 election, and had been the victim of a smear campaign when nude pictures, purportedly of her, were shared online.

Diane Rwigara was also charged with "forging or adjustment of documents" and "use of counterfeited documents", while her mother, Adeline, faced an additional charge of "discrimination and sectarian practices".

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.

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 worldwide law. "I am continuing with my political journey ... because there's still a lot that needs to be done in our country".

She said she will move ahead with her People Salvation Movement, an activist group launched shortly before her arrest to encourage Rwandans to hold their government accountable.

US senators in recent days urged the Rwandan government to drop the charges against her.

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

But it added: "We condemn all attempts by external actors to inappropriately influence judicial processes in Rwanda". "I thought the government was angered by Rwigara's criticism and she would be convicted", said Moses Hirwa, a mechanic.

The charges were brought against Diane Rwigara on 23 September 2017 and were based on public comments she made that were critical of the Rwandan state.

Ms Rwigara was imprisoned for over a year, after being barred from running in presidential elections against the long-standing incumbent Paul Kagame.

Diane Rwigara has repeatedly accused President Paul Kagame of stifling dissent and criticised his Rwandan Patriotic Front's unyielding grip on power.

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

The judges ruled that the prosecution failed to prove that Ms Rwigara had personally forged signatures.

Kagame has won global 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.

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