Judge orders release of British woman detained in Rwanda

2017-03-28 17:21
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Kigali - The pregnant wife of an exiled Rwandan opposition official, held incommunicado for a fortnight before being charged with treasonous acts, is to be released, her lawyer said on Tuesday.

A court ordered that Violette Uwamahoro, a Rwandan-British woman, be "provisionally released" on Monday, in a blow to state attempts to prosecute her for allegedly seeking to start an armed insurgency, said lawyer Antoinette Mukamusoni.

A human rights observer in the court said the judge had found contradictions in the prosecution's evidence. However, Uwamahoro remained in custody on Tuesday as police had not yet received a copy of the judgement, Mukamusoni said.

Once free Uwamahoro will not be permitted to leave Rwandan territory.

State prosecutors have five days to appeal the provisional release order and 30 days to decide whether to continue the prosecution or close the case, after which Uwamahoro would be unconditionally released.

The prosecution has given no indication of whether it plans to push ahead with the case.

Uwamahoro, who took British citizenship after moving to the UK in 2004 where she lives with her husband and two children, is accused alongside a cousin, Jean-Pierre Shumbusho.

Shumbusho has confessed to charges of revealing "information about state security" and planning "to form an armed group to attack Rwanda" but Uwamahoro denies the allegations.

She is married to Faustin Rukundo, an official with the exiled Rwandan National Congress (RNC) which was formed by former allies of President Paul Kagame. Kigali says the RNC is a terrorist organisation.

Uwamahoro travelled to Rwanda to attend her father's funeral but disappeared on February 14. Rwandan police only admitted they were holding her more than two weeks later, saying she was suspected of a "serious crime".

Pressure group Amnesty International said police were "illegally" holding Uwamahoro, while observers see the case as another example of government efforts to squash dissent.

Kagame is seeking re-election in August after the country's constitution was changed in 2015, allowing him to seek a third seven-year term.

He has been a main player in the small east African country since 1994 when his forces stopped a Hutu genocide against his Tutsi minority which left some 800 000 dead.

While Kagame is regularly praised for the stability and economic performance of his small nation, rights group often criticise him for lack of political freedoms and freedom of expression.

Read more on:    rwanda  |  east africa

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