Trial of Rwandan imprisoned opposition leader postponed

The trial of the jailed Rwandan opposition leader Diane Rwigara and her mother was postponed at Kigali’s High Court on Monday.

The Rwigaras’ lawyers have petitioned the court to provisionally release the pair. They want a judge removed from the case who was involved in the pretrial detention hearing, according to the family’s representative, Anne Rwigara, who is Diane Rwigara’s sister.

The pair, who have been imprisoned for over a year, now await a decision and a new trial date.

Diane Rwigara, 37, was the sole female challenger in last year’s election that Rwandan President Paul Kagame won with almost 99 percent of the vote.

The outspoken Kagame critic was arrested shortly after she was disqualified from contesting the August 2017 presidential race.

Rwigara launched her campaign to run three months ahead of the election, but electoral authorities disqualified her, saying that she exaggerated the number of signatures needed to qualify and accusing her of submitting the names of dead people. Rwigara denies all charges.

After she was disqualified, Rwigara launched the People Salvation Movement (Itabaza), an activist group to “encourage Rwandans to hold their government accountable.”

Shortly after its inception, she was arrested on charges of incitement and fraud. Family and supporters say the charges are politically motivated. Rwigara’s mother, Adeline, was also arrested on charges of discrimination and sectarian practices and inciting insurrection.

Some of Rwigara’s supporters remain skeptical about a fair trial, alleging harassment, censorship and threats of violence for their continued support of the pair.

Rwanda’s Office of the President, National Police and the RPF have not responded to CNN’s repeated requests for comment.

“We are looking forward to the next court date and strongly hope the president Paul Kagame will make the right decision and release our mother and sister,” Anne Rwigara added.

On Monday morning the courtroom was packed, and international diplomats and journalists were among family, friends and supporters.

Notably in attendance was another female opposition leader, Victoire Ingabire, who on September 15 was granted an unexpected presidential pardon after serving eight years of her 15-year prison sentence.

Immediately after she was freed, Ingabire, 49, urged the Rwandan government to open the country’s political landscape and asked them to free all other political prisoners, including Rwigara.