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Rwandans Lock Up U.S. Lawyer In Genocide Dispute

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Special to the NNPA from the GIN –

(GIN) – US lawyer Peter Erlinder is behind bars in Rwanda, days after his arrival in the Central African country. He had come to defend Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza, an alleged genocide denier, and political opponent of the current president, Paul Kagame.

Dozens of lawyers and their organizations have appealed for Erlinder’s release. "There can be no justice for anyone if the state can silence lawyers for defendants whom it dislikes…," said David Gespass, president of the National Lawyers Guild.

Rwanda's 1994 genocide claimed the lives of more than 500,000 people, mostly Tutsis and moderate Hutus. The massacres ended when mostly Tutsi rebels led by Kagame defeated the mostly Hutu extremist perpetrators.

Ingabire, a Hutu, returned to Rwanda in January after 16 years of living abroad. She says she returned to Rwanda because the country needs an open discussion to promote reconciliation.

In a visit to a memorial to Tutsis killed in the 1994 genocide, she asked why Hutus who also died weren't remembered. She was arrested as a “genocide denier” and is free on bail. Her case drew the attention of Erlinder, a law professor at William Mitchell College of Law in St. Paul, Minnesota. If convicted, Ingabire, 41, could be sentenced to more than two decades in prison. US Ass’t Sec’y of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson accused the Kigali government of restricting freedom prior to presidential polls in August, in which Ms Ingabire is a challenger.

President Paul Kagame is a Tutsi former rebel leader who came to power to end the killings. His forces have been accused of massacring Hutus after the genocide ended.

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+1 # Guest 2010-06-07 22:48
Peter, where in africa has 'democracy' and 'free speech' brought about development? give me one example. In Rwanda our priority is to fight poverty and develop our country. 'Democracy', 'free speech' and 'rights' cant mean anything to a hungry Rwandan - this is only has meaning to americans and europeans - we dont even know what they mean
+1 # Guest 2010-06-07 22:24
Is Erlinder being punished for his role as a defense lawyer representing genocide suspects in the ICTR?
No, not at all. He is being charged with a decade’s worth of statements he has made publically out of court and in numerous platforms that denied the genocide which cost a million Rwandan lives.
+1 # Guest 2010-06-07 22:20
Rwanda's laws against those who defend or deny the genocide that took the lives of over a million family members, friends and neighbors are not about politics or symbolism, they are designed to protect the hard-won peace, stability and growing prosperity of our nation.

How does Erlinder threaten Rwanda’s peace and security?
The small but vocal number of genocide defenders and deniers, of which Erlinder is one, cause immense heartache and anguish. They fuel conspiracies and lies. They teach hate and promote ethnic conflict, the exact opposite of our national mission to unite and reconcile our society. From Minnesota, it may seem like an over-reaction. But for Rwandans, the arrest of Erlinder is an act of justice and an act of peace.
0 # Guest 2010-06-07 13:43
Rwanda led by Kagame is entering in a total dictatorship.
Kagame's regime is like staline soviet regime where the rime was killing people inside the country in Goulag at the same time making propaganda about developement outside.
In Rwanda all opponets are called Genocidaires if they are Hutu and having genocide ideology if they were outsinde during genocide (Hutu or foreigners),Tutsi opponets are called thieves from corruption. Generals are fleeing from the terror.
The only solution will be freedom of speech and true democracy
+2 # Guest 2010-06-07 13:02
Victoire Ingabire is NOT an opposition leader because she is NOT registered on any presidential ballot to run for presidency nor is her "so-called" political party lawfully registered in the country. She is the leader of a terrorist group known as FDU-Inkingi which was vigilant in fund-raising the killing campaigns in Rwanda and there is evidence of money being transferred from her personal account. They do no seek to bring change or reconciliation. Ironically, FDU continues to support other Hutu extremists living inside and outside of Rwanda. Ingabire and her counterparts have one central goal and that is to finish the genocide they started back in 1994. They put their money together and bought the best American lawyer money could buy to defend her. In the eyes of Rwandans, Erlinder is guilty of being a genocide denier because he supports a terrorist!

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