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Rwanda court sentences opposition leader to life in prison

A Rwandan court on Friday sentenced opposition leader Deogratias Mushayidi [AI backgrounder] to life in prison for recruiting rebels and trying to incite violence against the government of current Rwandan President Paul Kagame [official website; BBC profile]. Mushayidi was also given two additional lesser sentences [AFP report] for a fraudulent passport and for spreading rumors to incite civil disobedience. He has denied all charges and claims he was traveling legally with a Burundian passport. His lawyer said that they will appeal the sentences. Mushayidi is the leader of the Pact for the Defence of the People, the former head of the Rwandan Journalists' Association and a member of the ruling party [BBC report] before becoming a vocal critic. He was arrested in Burundi, where he was living in exile, in March and was extradited to Rwanda.

In April, Rwandan authorities arrested [JURIST report] opposition presidential candidate Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza [campaign website], accusing her of denying the 1994 Rwandan genocide [HRW backgrounder; JURIST news archive] and collaborating with terrorists. Authorities cited Ingabire's call for the prosecution [AFP report] of those who killed Hutus during the genocide, in which over 800,000 people, mostly Tutsis, were slain, as evidence of her denial of the genocide. Prosecutors also alleged that Ingabire has collaborated with Hutu rebels in the Democratic Republic of Rwanda, which borders Rwanda. The arrests come at a time when Kagame has received criticism [press release] from Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] for his treatment of opposition parties.

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