Rwanda high court acquits Kagame critic, Diane Rwigara

Rwanda high court acquits Kagame critic, Diane Rwigara

After spending one year in a Rwandan prison waiting for the country's high court to decide on her case, Diane Rwigara feared the worst.

A Rwandan court acquitted an aspiring presidential contender and fierce critic of President Paul Kagame of charges of inciting a public insurrection and forging electoral documents.

Rwigara's mother was also acquitted of charges of inciting insurrection and discrimination.

In Thursday's ruling, the high court judges said the prosecution failed to prove that Ms Rwigara had personally forged supporters' signatures and ruled that her criticism of the government during press conferences was protected by freedom of speech in both the constitution and global law.

"All charges. have been dropped".

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.

Rwigara and her family faced a series of arrests without specified charges.

Her 44-year old campaign manager, Thadeyo Muyenzi, went missing and has still not been found.

Two days after announcing her candidacy, Rwigara was hit with a scandal as nude pictures believed to be hers speculated on social media.

Rwanda high court acquits Kagame critic, Diane Rwigara

President Kagame won the 2017 election with over 98 per cent of the votes, securing a third term in office and extending his 17 years in power.

The court also said Rwigara's criticism of the government in the press was an exercise of her freedom of expression, guaranteed by both the constitution and worldwide law.

Ingabire leads an unregistered opposition party, the FDU-Inkigi, and she was freed along with several other prisoners, including singer Kizito Mihigo, convicted and jailed in 2015 for plotting to kill Kagame. "So yes, you do pay a price for speaking out in this country".

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.

However, human rights groups and others have exhausted of his increasingly autocratic style.

He became president in 2000, a post he might hold until 2034 thanks to a constitutional amendment made three years ago.

But today, a court in Kigali dropped all the the charges against her and her mother, calling them "baseless".

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

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