Peter Erlinder , an American
lawyer helping defend a Rwandan presidential hopeful against charges that
include promoting a genocidal ideology was arrested and charged with genocide denial. Chief
prosecutor Martin Ngoga said he had been arrested for remarks made in
publications and statements.
Erlinder is the president of an association of defense lawyers at the
International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda that is trying the masterminds
of the 1994 genocide. He is also a law professor at William Mitchell
College of Law in St. Paul, Minnesota. He
is a frequent litigator or consultant, often pro bono, in cases involving
the death penalty, civil rights, claims of government and police
misconduct, and criminal defense of political activists. He is also a
frequent news commentator.
Erlinder is the lead defence counsel for top genocide suspects at the
International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in Arusha, Tanzania. He had
arrived in Kigali to help defend opposition leader Victoire Ingabire
Umuhoza, 41, who was charged with
promoting genocide ideology last month.
Ingabire, an ethnic Hutu, returned to Rwanda in January to contest
elections after 16 years of living abroad. She says she returned to
Rwanda because the country needs an open discussion to promote reconciliation.
She immediately visited a memorial to Tutsis killed in the 1994 genocide
and asked why Hutus who also died weren't remembered. She was arrested
for allegedly propagating genocide ideology after she called for action
to be taken against those responsible for killing Hutus during the 1994
conflict. She was freed on bail but her passport was seized and she was
banned from leaving the capital, Kigali. She could be sentenced to more
than two decades in prison if convicted. Ms Ingabire, who leads the Unified
Democratic Forces party, has previously said she had been harassed since
returning from exile in January.
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.
been lauded abroad for social and economic reforms and is expected to win
another seven-year term but human rights groups say his administration
has an ironclad hold on power and quashes opposing views.
requests the immediate release of Professor Peter Erlinder and that all
charges against him be dropped.
Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson has
accused the Kigali government of restricting the legal defense of
Victoire Ingabire, an opposition leader running against President Paul
Kagame in the 9 August
presidential election, in which Ms Ingabire was a challenger.
be no justice for anyone if the state can silence lawyers for defendants
whom it dislikes and a government that seeks to prevent lawyers from
being vigorous advocates for their clients cannot be trusted.
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