Rwandan government critic acquitted of 'baseless' insurrection charges

Rwanda high court acquits Kagame critic Diane Rwigara

Rwanda high court acquits Kagame critic Diane Rwigara

The pair faced up to 22 years in prison for the charges in the case that drew worldwide attention to the East African country. "I plan to continue my political career because what I was advocating for hasn't changed, especially poverty in the country".

Diane Rwigara, an outspoken young politician, was an unusual voice of criticism in tightly run Rwanda before the August 2017 election, and had been the victim of a smear campaign when nude pictures, purportedly of her, were shared online.

A panel of three judges dropped all the charges against Rwigara, her mother Adeline and four co-accused.

She said she will move ahead with her People Salvation Movement, an activist group launched shortly before her arrest to encourage Rwandans to hold their government accountable.

USA senators in recent days urged Rwanda's government to drop the charges against her, with Sen.

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

"We were innocent", Rwigara, 37, said in an interview in the capital, Kigali, shortly after the ruling by Judge John Byakatonda.

Amnesty International welcomed the court's decision.

Her bail comes days after Kagame gave clemency to 2,140 convicts, including a woman who had also tried to run against him in the 2010 polls; Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza. "I hope to be cleared of all these made-up charges but I am ready for any outcome", she said, calling the courts unpredictable and lacking independence.

Diane Rwigara has repeatedly accused President Paul Kagame of stifling dissent and criticised his Rwandan Patriotic Front's unyielding grip on power.

It also ruled that although the documents presented to the national electoral commission had indications of forged signatures, it was upon the prosecution to prove that she personally meant to forge the signatures, which it did not.

The Rwigara family assets and stock of their tobacco company have been auctioned off by the country's revenue authority which said it was recovering unpaid taxes. Kagame won a third term in office with 98% of the vote.

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.

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