KIGALI, Rwanda – The court of Rwanda acquitted yesterday the most important figure of the opposition of the country, Diane Rwigara, of all the accusations related to his election challenge of President Paul Kagame, with the judges who declared that the accusation did not provide evidence of insurrection and falsification.
The case has attracted global attention as Kagame again tackles the pressure to give more space to critics in this highly controlled East African country.
Even Rwigara's mother, Adeline, 59, was absolved from inciting insurrection and promoting sectarianism. Both had denied the accusations.
The classroom, full of diplomats and supporters, burst into applause when Diane Rwigara and her mother were overwhelmed by tears. Excited relatives who had prayed before the hearing to protect themselves were swarming with hugs.
The 37-year-old Rwigara, who had denounced the accusations as politically motivated, had to face 22 years in prison if convicted. She was arrested after trying to run for last year's election, and is the rare person who publicly criticizes the government from within the country.
The US Senators in recent days have urged the Rwandan government to suspend the charges, with Senator Dick Durbin who noted "what appear to be very questionable accusations against Rwigara for the apparent rush to the office. peacefully".
In response, the Rwandan justice minister told journalists that the courts should not be under pressure from third parties.
The group of three judges said there was no evidence that the Rwandans were incited against the state after Rwigara's comments to the media, and that her mother's intercepted WhatsApp audio files did not incite the insurgency and instead they were private conversations.
Some Rwandans in the capital, Kigali, said they were shocked by the court's decision. "I thought the government was irritated by Rwigara's criticism and would have been condemned," said Moses Hirwa, a mechanic.
Speaking to the Associated Press before her appearance in court, Rwigara remained rebellious, saying that no pressure will silence her. "I hope to be freed from all these invented charges, but I'm ready for any results," he said, defining the courts unpredictable and lacking independence.
Kagame is praised for leading the Rwanda recovery from the 1994 genocide and for progress in economic development and women's rights, but critics say it will not tolerate criticism. His government rejects these allegations.
The government in September has forgiven thousands of prisoners, including an opposition party leader and a political activist, and several analysts have said that Kagame was loosening the country's political space.
Last year Rwigara recognized the risks of running against Kagame, one of the longest-running African leaders. Shortly after announcing her intention to run, nude photos that she claims were manipulated were posted on social media in what her supporters called an effort to weaken her credibility.
Rwigara was later disqualified from the race, with the government saying they did not have enough support signatures and forged some of them. Kagame won a third term with over 98 percent of the vote.
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