Rwanda opposition activist freed after 'kidnapping'

2016-09-22 15:53
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Kigali  - The party of a jailed Rwandan opposition leader said on Wednesday one of its activists had been released after his "kidnapping" three days earlier.

"We learned of the release of Theophile Ntirutwa on Tuesday night around 22:30 when we received a phone call from him," said Boniface Twagirimana, vice president of the United Democratic Forces (known by its French acronym, FDU).

Ntirutwa, a party official in the capital Kigali, was detained by soldiers on Sunday evening and taken to an unknown location, Twagirimana said.

"We denounce this as a kidnapping because he was never formally arrested," he said.

Ntirutwa said he was held, blindfolded, for two days, beaten with the butt of a rifle during his arrest, and repeatedly questioned about his links to opposition leaders, including those from the FDU and the Rwanda National Congress (RNC), a party whose leadership-in-exile President Paul Kagame has dubbed "terrorists" and "traitors".

Ethnic tensions 

Rwanda's police spokesperson Celestin Twahirwa denied Ntirutwa had been detained, arrested or investigated.

"We have never held him in our cells," said Twahirwa.

FDU leader Victoire Ingabire was arrested in 2010 while campaigning against Kagame.

She was subsequently found guilty of crimes including "divisionism" - an offence of stoking the ethnic tensions that led to the 1994 genocide in which around 800,000 mostly Tutsi people were killed - and sentenced to 15 years in jail.

Last month another FDU official, Leonille Gasengayire, was arrested and accused of inciting the people, a crime punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

Kagame is expected to run for re-election for another seven-year term in 2017 after the constitution was changed.

The FDU said opponents are being harassed and silenced ahead of the vote.

Rwanda is regularly praised for its stability and its economic performance but criticised for lack of political freedoms.

Several opposition parties - including the FDU - are not officially recognised and cannot participate in elections.

Read more on:    paul kagame  |  rwanda  |  abductions  |  east africa

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