Sunday, October 21, 2012

Rwanda opposition leader loses genocide law challenge

KIGALI Rwanda's Supreme Court on Thursday rejected a suit filed by a leading opposition figure challenging one of the laws being used to prosecute her for allegedly denying the 1994 genocide.
Victoire Ingabire, who has been in custody for two years accused of bankrolling terrorism as well as denying the genocide, filed a suit in March contesting the legality of Rwanda's genocide ideology laws.
"The court finds no contradiction between the genocide ideology law and the constitution. It is true the constitution grants freedom of expression and speech but the genocide ideology law puts limitations to avoid violations of the freedoms," the nine-man panel of judges said in its ruling.
The genocide denial charges against Ingabire were triggered by remarks in January 2010 at the memorial to the estimated 800,000 people, the majority of them Tutsis, who were killed in the slaughter.
Ingabire, herself a Hutu, said it was time Hutu war victims were also commemorated.
Ingabire appeared in a courtroom packed with supporters from her Unified Democratic Forces (FDU-Inkingi) party.
"I do not agree with the decision of the Court," Ingabire told journalists as she left the courtroom under close guard.
In September, eight members of the FDU-Inkingi were arrested in western Rwanda for allegedly holding an illegal meeting during which they criticised some government programmes.
"We have written to the UK High Commission expressing our concerns," FDU-Inkingi secretary general Sylvain Sibomana told AFP, adding that donor countries should advise Kigali to "open up and improve on democracy".
"Any person who criticises the government is jailed," Sibomana said, citing the cases of three other opposition figures facing similar charges.
Ingabire, an outspoken critic of President Paul Kagame, has been in custody since October 2010, and has boycotted proceedings of her trial in the High Court since April after the tribunal cut short a witness who accused the authorities of rigging evidence against her.
The High Court is expected to pronounce its verdict on Friday.
In April, prosecutors asked the court to sentence Ingabire to life in prison.
The prosecution claims to have evidence of Ingabire's "terrorist" activities, including proof of cash transfers to the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Rwanda, a Hutu rebel movement based in neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo.
However, the FDU-Inkingi accuses Rwandan authorities of fabricating evidence against its leader, with the sole aim of preventing her from participating in the political affairs of the small central African country.
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