Rwandan court drops charges against opposition politician Rwigara

Rwandan court drops charges against opposition politician Rwigara

Rwandan court drops charges against opposition politician Rwigara

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.

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 courtroom, packed with diplomats and supporters, erupted in applause as Diane Rwigara and her mother were overcome with tears.

Before her sentencing on Thursday, Rwigara had expressed defiance, saying the charges were made up.

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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.

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

"I am very happy with the verdict", said Ms Rwigara, who has been out on bail since October. "I plan to continue my political career because what I was advocating for hasn't changed, especially poverty in the country". She faced 22 years in prison if convicted.

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. She - just like Ms Rwigara - had meant to run for president against Paul Kagame, back in 2010.

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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.

Kagame is largely credited with the development and stability that Rwanda has experienced since the 1994 genocide in which 800,000 people were killed; he has also spearheaded gender equality, and 61% of parliamentarians are women.

Four other accused relatives, who are not in the country, were also cleared of all charges and found not guilty.

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

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Since her arrest, Rwigara's brothers and sister have been interrogated, family assets have forcibly been auctioned to pay off a multi-million dollar tax claim, while a hotel they owned was demolished for allegedly failing to abide by city guidelines.

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