Published: Sat, December 08, 2018
People | By Leon Thompson

Rwanda high court acquits Kagame critic, Diane Rwigara

Rwanda high court acquits Kagame critic, Diane Rwigara

Speaking to Sky News hours before the verdict was announced, Ms Rwigara said she was targeted by the state because she is prepared to challenge Kagame and his ruling clique.

A panel of three judges ruled that the prosecution had failed to prove that Rwigara had personally forged signatures.

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.

"All charges. have been dropped. The court finds that the prosecution's charges were baseless", said presiding judge Xavier Ndahayo.

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 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.

Diane Rwigara was facing charges of inciting insurrection against the government and forgery of electoral documents, on account of which she was disqualified from the presidential race in 2017.

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"This is a testament that all these charges against me and my mother and family members are made up".

Rwigara remained defiant despite facing a 22-year jail sentence and maintain she will vociferously champion human rights being trampled by Kagame.

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.

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

Amnesty International welcomed the court's decision.

The Rwigara family assets and stock of their tobacco company have been auctioned off by the country's revenue authority which said it was recovering unpaid taxes.

Kagame is praised for leading Rwanda's recovery from the 1994 genocide and for advances in economic development and women's rights, but critics say he does not tolerate criticism. Rwanda changed its constitution in 2015 to enable Kagame, who became president in 2000, to seek a third term.

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