Published: Sat, December 08, 2018
Worldwide | By Isabel Fisher

Kagame Critic Diane Rwigara Acquitted - TowerPostNews

Kagame Critic Diane Rwigara Acquitted - TowerPostNews

Diane Rwigara's case has drawn global attention as Kagame again faces pressure to give more space to critics in this highly controlled East African country. "This is the beginning, because there's still a lot that needs to be done in our country".

Her attempt to stand against Kagame in the last presidential poll in August 2017 was blocked after she was accused of not submitting enough supporters' signatures and submitted some that were forged.

Ms Rwigara has repeatedly accused President Kagame of stifling dissent and criticised his party's unyielding grip on power since it assumed control after the country's civil war.

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.

"Court rules that Diane Rwigara is innocent", Xavier Ndahayo, one of a panel of three judges, told a packed courtroom in the capital Kigali.

She launched an activist group called the People Salvation Movement to challenge the Kagame regime to ensure human rights. And she thanked everyone who pressured the government to free her.

USA senators in recent days urged the Rwandan government to drop the charges against her. Dick Durbin noting "what appears to be highly questionable charges against Rwigara for seemingly running for office peacefully".

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.

Amnesty International welcomed the court's decision. She faced 22 years behind bars if convicted. "I hope to be cleared of all these made-up charges but I am ready for any outcome", she said, calling the courts unpredictable and lacking independence.

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. His government rejects such accusations. Just days after she announced her candidacy, nude photos said to be of her were circulated on social media, in what many considered was a smear campaign to tarnish her image.

It also ruled that although the documents presented to the national electoral commission had indications of forged signatures, it was upon the prosecution to prove that she personally meant to forge the signatures, which it did not.

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