Rwanda's most high-profile opposition figure acquitted of "baseless" charges

Rwanda high court acquits Kagame critic Diane Rwigara

Rwigara remained defiant despite facing a 22-year jail sentence and maintain she will vociferously champion human rights being trampled by Kagame.

In Thursday's ruling, the high court judges said the prosecution failed to prove that Ms Rwigara had personally forged supporters' signatures and ruled that her criticism of the government during press conferences was protected by freedom of speech in both the constitution and global law.

Ms Rwigara's difficulties began when she declared her candidacy in Rwanda's 2017 presidential contest.

Rwigara's mother was accused of inciting insurrection through audio messages sent on WhatsApp, which were intercepted and used as evidence by the prosecution.

"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. Umuhoza was convicted in 2013 for conspiring against the government. "The court finds that the prosecution charges were baseless", the judges said in their ruling.

Ms Rwigara, who is described as "fearless" by those close to her, is not about to apologise for attempting to hold Rwanda's leaders to account.

Assinapol was an influential industrialist who played an important role in financing the ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front (FPR) in the 1990s before later falling out with its leaders. "While we welcome their discharge and acquittal, we are concerned that the right to freedom of expression remains under attack in Rwanda", Amnesty International's Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes, Joan Nyanyuki said.

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 worldwide law.

Kagame is largely credited with the development and stability that Rwanda has experienced since the 1994 genocide in which 800,000 people were killed; he has also spearheaded gender equality, and 61% of parliamentarians are women.

Ms Rwigara has repeatedly accused President Kagame of stifling dissent and criticised his party's unyielding grip on power since it assumed control after the country's civil war. Human rights organisations welcomed this, saying it showed that "Rwanda may be turning a new leaf", but said the arrests, executions, disappearances and torture would have to end to prove that the change was meaningful.

In March, the Rwanda Revenue Authority sold Premier Tobacco Co., a firm owned by the Rwigara family, after it failed to pay $6 million in taxes and debt to banks.

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