Accountant turned politician and fierce government critic, Diane Rwigara and her Mother Adeline Rwigara have been freed on bail, according to her family.
Rwigara appeared in court Friday facing charges of incitement and fraud. Her mother, who was also in court, was being held on charges of discrimination and sectarian practices and inciting insurrection.
But three High Court judges ruled that the prosecution did not give credible reasons why they should be detained during their trial, according to local media The East African.
The High Court in Kigali has granted bail to Diane Rwigara, a prominent government critic, and her mother Adeline Rwigara. The three-judge panel said the prosecution did not give credible reasons why the pair should be detained during their trial…. https://t.co/kdT6DqHXKV— Rwanda Today (@RwandaToday) October 5, 2018
They ordered mother and daughter, who has been in jail since September 2017, to be freed on bail.
The court erupted in shouts as excited family members rushed to hug the pair on hearing the news.
Rwigara family representative Anne Rwigara said the court decision is ‘very welcome. We give the glory to God,’ adding that they now wait to defend themselves against the charges. The family Lawyer Pierre Celestin Buhuru said ‘it’s a sweet victory. We are happy for the ruling.’
‘We are overjoyed by this great news! We had faith this day would come soon. We thank God for it, and we are forever grateful to family, friends and all the other people who remained close to us during this hard time and showed us support,’ Arioste her brother said.
Arioste added that while Friday’s result was a positive step, the future remains uncertain. Asked whether Friday’s outcome could signal a dropping of charges, he said: ‘Nothing is certain at this point. But we hope they will be, because they never should have been charged with anything in the first place, let alone imprisoned.’
Diane Rwigara was the sole female challenger in last year’s election that President Paul Kagame won with almost 99% of the vote.
The 37-year-old accountant launched her election bid three months ahead of the August 2017 presidential vote.
Shortly after she began her campaign, Rwigara was disqualified by electoral authorities.
She was charged for exaggerating the number of signatures needed to qualify and accused of submitting the names of dead people, charges she denied.
Her supporters say all the charges are politically motivated and highlight a lack of political and social freedoms under Kagame.
Just in September, Kagame surprised the world by releasing 2,000 prisoners including the 49-year-old leader of the opposition party FDU-Inkingi, Victoire Ingabire. Ingabire had served eight years out of her 15 years’ sentence.
She was imprisoned on charges Amnesty International adjudged to be politically motivated and though both women aren’t exactly connected, their experiences and seeming persecution by the Rwandan government have made people draw parallels between them.
Ingabire shared a jail cell with Diane Rwigara at the end of her imprisonment and was present at the Rwigaras’ hearing. Ingabire said she was ‘glad’ to hear the news and called it a ‘good step’ in the ‘good direction,’ but stressed that many other political prisoners are still imprisoned awaiting trial, including nine members of her own opposition party, and she called for their release.
‘The Kagame government should not (just) release the opposition and think that is enough. It is a step but they should understand that what our country needs is a society with room for critical voices to speak freely and peacefully,’ Ingabire said.
‘We have to end the cycle of political violence in Rwanda and build it into a reconciled nation, hopeful of durable peace and prosperity,’ she added.