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December 10, 2018

Rwanda: Kagame critic Diane Rwigara acquitted of forgery, incitement charges

Diane Shima Rwigara, a prominent critic of Rwanda's president Paul Kagame, arrives at the courtroom in Kigali, Rwanda, December 6, 2018. /REUTERS
Diane Shima Rwigara, a prominent critic of Rwanda's president Paul Kagame, arrives at the courtroom in Kigali, Rwanda, December 6, 2018. /REUTERS

Diane Rwigara, a critic of veteran Rwandan president Paul Kagame, was acquitted by Rwanda's high court on Thursday of charges that included inciting insurrection and forging of documents.

The 37-year-old accountant has repeatedly accused Kagame of stifling dissent and criticised his Rwandan Patriotic Front’s unyielding grip on power since it assumed control after ending the country's 1994 genocide.

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

"Court rules that Diane Rwigara is innocent," Xavier Ndahayo, one of a panel of three judges, told a packed courtroom in the capital Kigali.

Rwigara's mother was also acquitted of charges of inciting insurrection and discrimination.

"I am very happy with the court decision. I am continuing with my political journey ...everything I talked about in the past has not been resolved. There are still many political prisoners in the country," Diane Rwigara said after the ruling.

On Wednesday, a group of US Congress members called on the Rwandan government to drop charges against Rwigara.

Kagame has won international praise for presiding over a peaceful and rapid economic recovery in Rwanda since the genocide that killed an estimated 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus.

But he has also faced mounting criticism for what human rights groups say are widespread abuses, a muzzling of independent media, and suppression of political opposition.

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