Newshour, Diane Rwigara: Critic of Rwandan government acquitted

Diane Rwigara, a critic of Rwanda's President

Rwigara together with her mother Adeline Mukangemanyi have been under incarceration over charges of inciting insurrection and forgery as allegedly discovered by the National Electoral Commission during the evaluation of nominations for the presidential elections held a year ago.

Ms Rwigara's difficulties began when she declared her candidacy in Rwanda's 2017 presidential contest. Excited relatives who had prayed before the hearing for protection swarmed them with hugs.

"I will continue my campaign to fight for the rights of all Rwandans", a surprised but happy Rwigara told reporters after celebrating. And she thanked everyone who pressured the government to free her.

Rwanda's justice minister and attorney general in a statement said the government respects the verdict and "will carefully study its implications".

Critics still see Ms Rwigara's arrest and detention, and the auctioning of her assets, as a continuation of a trend of intimidation against anyone who opposes the government.

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 global law.

Speaking to The Associated Press ahead of her court appearance, Rwigara remained defiant, saying no amount of pressure will silence her.

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Ms Rwigara was imprisoned for over a year, after being barred from running in presidential elections against the long-standing incumbent Paul Kagame.

"I hope to be cleared of all these made-up charges but I am ready for any outcome", she said earlier this week.

Paul Kagame, the country's towering, beanpole-like president, has been widely praised for his role in providing stability and economic growth after Rwanda's catastrophic genocide in 1994. Diane Rwigara said that the images were digitally manipulated.

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.

In its ruling, the High Court said the duo was not guilty of insurrection saying the State had failed to present enough evidence beyond reasonable doubt.

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.

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