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Rwandan court drops all charges against opposition figure

08 December 2018

"All charges. have been dropped".

Rwigara's case has drawn global attention as Kagame again faces pressure to give more space to critics in the tightly controlled East African country.

Her attempt to stand against Kagame in the country's last presidential poll in August a year ago was blocked after she was accused of not submitting enough supporters' signatures and that some of those she submitted were forged.

A panel of three judges ruled that the prosecution had failed to prove that Rwigara had personally forged signatures.

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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 acquittal of Diane Rwigara and her mother Adeline could be seen a significant step in Rwanda's democracy. "And if women are to be serving in office, they must be able to serve in every office, including the presidency and run for the presidency without becoming a political prisoner", said Bonamici.

The charges were brought against Diane Rwigara on 23 September 2017 and were based on public comments she made that were critical of the Rwandan state.

Victoire and DianeDiane Rwigara is the daughter of a businessman and pivotal member of the ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front, Assinapol Rwigara.

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"I will continue my campaign to fight for the rights of all Rwandans", a surprised but happy Rwigara told reporters after celebrating. This was immediately followed by a raid of her family's house by the police who said they were investigating them for forgery and tax evasion.

The same also applied to her mother, with the court ruling that WhatsApp voice notes she had sent to her relatives accusing the government of ruling through fear amounted to her merely expressing her right of freedom of speech in a private manner.

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

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. Rwanda changed its constitution in 2015 to enable Kagame, who became president in 2000, to seek a third term.

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Rwanda regularly comes under fire from human rights groups for curbs on freedom of expression, extrajudicial killings, and lack of political freedom.

Rwandan court drops all charges against opposition figure