TowerPostNews: Kagame Critic Diane Rwigara Acquitted

Lester Mason
December 8, 2018

The 36-year-old women's rights activist and entrepreneur was caught up in a legal tussle after her expression of interest to challenge President Paul Kagame - who has been in office for 18 years - in the August 2017 presidential election. "The court finds that the prosecution's charges were baseless", said presiding judge Xavier Ndahayo.

The courtroom, packed with diplomats and supporters, erupted in applause as Diane Rwigara and her mother were overcome with tears. "I am extremely happy and I now have the energy and the zeal to continue my passion of fighting for freedom of expression and human rights in Rwanda", Rwigara told AFP.

During the hearings, the businesswoman asserted that Rwanda's economy was mainly controlled by the governing party's elite.

"The lie is that everything is well in Rwanda and I just talk about [the reality] which is the high level of unemployment, the high level of poverty, the disappearances, the killings, all that, and they are not ready for that to be exposed".

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.

Rwigara and her mother, Adeline, who was also standing trial, were acquitted of all charges by the Rwandan High Court on Thursday, a day after a group of US Congress members called on the Rwandan government to drop the charges which are believed to be politically motivated.

The activist ran for president in 2017
Image The activist ran for president in 2017

The three-judge panel said there was no proof that Rwandans had been incited against the state after Rwigara's remarks to the media, and that intercepted WhatsApp audio files of her mother did not incite insurrection and instead were private conversations. "I thought the government was angered by Rwigara's criticism and she would be convicted", said Moses Hirwa, a mechanic. And there's a long list of dissidents who have been punished severely.

In September, 2,000 prisoners were released, including Victoire Ingabire, another prominent opposition leader.

Another opposition leader, Boniface Twagirimana, went missing from prison in October.

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.

In March, the Rwanda Revenue Authority sold Premier Tobacco Co., a firm owned by the Rwigara family, after it failed to pay $6 million in taxes and debt to banks.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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