Diane Rwigwara innocent; Rwandan court rules

After spending one year in prison, Diane Rwigara, a prominent critic of Rwanda’s president Paul Kagame, has been acquitted of insurrection and document forgery charges.

Judge Xavier Ndahayo, one of the members of a panel of three high court judges in  Rwanda’s capital, Kigali, stated that the “Court rules that Diane Rwigara is innocent”. Both she and her mother were cleared of charges of inciting insurrection and forgery of documents.

The judges ruled that the prosecution failed to prove that Rwigara had personally forged signatures and that Rwigara’s criticism of the government, through press conferences was freedom of speech, which is guaranteed by both the constitution and international law.

The 37-year-old repeatedly accused Paul Kagame of stifling dissent. She also criticised his political party, the Rwandan Patriotic Front for its unyielding grip on power since it assumed control after ending the country’s 1994 genocide. In August 2017, she attempted to run for office against Kagame but was unable to do so, as she was accused of forging documents.

That same month, her home was raided. The police stated that the politician cum businesswoman was being investigated for forgery and tax evasion. Rwigara’s family reported her missing, saying that unknown armed men in civilian clothes had held her at gunpoint while the house was searched. The police, however, denied that she had been arrested even though she was reported missing.

Even Leon Orsmond, a South African advertising freelancer, who had helped Rwigara with her social media campaign went missing in Rwanda in February 2018 and has still not been found.