Rwandan court drops all charges against opposition figure

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

Rwanda's high court has acquitted the country's highest-profile opposition figure, Diane Rwigara, of all charges against her, with the judge saying the prosecution failed to provide evidence of insurrection and forgery.

Rwigara's mother, Adeline, 59, also was acquitted of inciting insurrection and promoting sectarianism.

Her attempt to stand against Kagame in the country's last presidential poll in August past year was blocked after she was accused of not submitting enough supporters' signatures and that some of those she submitted were forged.

Amnesty International welcomes the acquittal of Diane Rwigara and her mother Adeline and says they should never have been charged and imprisoned for more than a year. "The court finds that the prosecution charges were baseless", said presiding judge Xavier Ndahayo.

Since her arrest, Ms Rwigara's family have been subject to interrogations and their family assets forcibly auctioned.

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.

"I will continue my campaign to fight for the rights of all Rwandans", a surprised but happy Rwigara told reporters after celebrating.

The court ruled that Diane Rwigara did not incite violence and was only exercising her freedom of speech when she criticised the presidency in her press conferences during her stint as presidential candidate hopeful. She was arrested in September last year and held in jail for more than a year, until her release on bail in October.

Before her sentencing on Thursday, Rwigara had expressed defiance, saying the charges were made up. She - just like Ms Rwigara - had meant to run for president against Paul Kagame, back in 2010.

Some Rwandans in the capital, Kigali, said they were shocked by the court's decision.

"We call on the Rwandan authorities to build on this judgment and work towards developing greater tolerance and acceptance of alternative and critical views".

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.

Rwanda regularly comes under fire from rights groups for curbs on freedom of expression, extrajudicial killings and lack of political freedom.



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