Rwandan opposition leader trial opens

2011-09-05 14:42

Kigali - The trial opened on Monday of Rwandan opposition leader Victoire Ingabire, an outspoken critic of President Paul Kagame's regime who is charged with fomenting insecurity and ethnic divisions.

Charges were read out against the handcuffed Ingabire, dressed in a pink regulation prison outfit and with a shaved head, but after opening prosecutors then called for the trial to be delayed.

Rwandan prosecutors said they have evidence of her alleged "terrorist" activities, including proof of financial transfers to the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), a Hutu rebel movement based in neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo.

However, the prosecution called for more time to collect evidence from the Netherlands, where Ingabire lived in exile before returning to Rwanda in January 2010.

Ingabire's British defence lawyer Iain Edwards said the trial should go ahead as planned.

"Delaying the trial would not be in the interest of justice," Edwards told the court.

Around 20 armed security officials surrounded the courthouse, with several also inside the crowded courtroom.

"It is clear that the prosecution would not be prejudiced if the trial were to proceed today," Edwards added.

"But it is clear that Ms Ingabire would be prejudiced to delay the trial, as she would be subject to continued and lengthy pre-trial detention."

Insecurity


At one point Ingabire, who appeared to be in good spirits according to an AFP reporter in the court, made an impassioned plea to the judge for the case to continue.

"The prosecutor has said from the beginning that they were ready to proceed, and that they had all the evidence they needed to prosecute this case," judge Alice Rulisa said. "Now they are saying they need more time."

Ingabire, who has been in detention since her arrest in October last year, is charged alongside several co-accused with "giving financial support to a terrorist group, planning to cause state insecurity and divisionism".

Ingabire's Unified Democratic Forces, refused accreditation as a political party, accuses Rwandan authorities of fabricating evidence against its leader with the aim of blocking her from political life.

Ingabire arrived in Rwanda in January 2010 after 17 years in exile in the Netherlands.

She has been an outspoken critic of Kagame who has ruled the small central African country ever since the 1994 genocide which saw an estimated 800 000 mostly ethnic Tutsis killed by Hutus in a roughly 100-day period.

The trial was initially supposed to start May 16 but was pushed back owing to the absence of Ingabire's lawyers. It was postponed for a second time June 20 after her lawyers asked for more time to prepare.

Read more on:    victoire ingabire  |  paul kagame  |  rwanda  |  east africa
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