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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