Rwanda high court rules opposition leader's trial will continue despite her refusal to attend

[JURIST] The Rwandan high court ruled Wednesday that the case against opposition leader Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza [campaign website; JURIST news archive] will continue despite her announcement this week that she refuses to attend further proceedings. The court's ruling [AP report] paves the way for the prosecution to begin its case on Monday in Ingabire's absence. She faces charges [BBC report] of threatening state security, propagating ethnic hatred and "genocide revisionism" based on accusations of her denying the 1994 Rwandan genocide [HRW backgrounder; JURIST news archive]. Ingabire is also accused of transferring money to the mainly ethnic Hutu FDLR rebels, based in neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo. Her British defense lawyer has stated that Ingabire's boycott is due to the court's cutting off the defense testimony of a rebel colonel, who was interrupted while accusing the Rwandan intelligence services of offering money to rebels to make false claims against Ingabire. Ingabire accused the judge of bias, maintains her charges are politically motivated and has stated she will abstain from attending the rest of her trial, including any hearings.

Ingabire has been subject to multiple arrests since returning to Rwanda in January 2010 after being exiled for 16 years. In October of that year Ingabire was arrested [JURIST report] on charges of being involved in the formation of a terrorist organization. Ingabire was implicated, authorities say, during investigations [AP report] into the activities of Joseph Ntawangundi, an aid to Ingabire, who was accused of commanding a Hutu militia group operating in neighboring Congo. In April 2010 Ingabire was arrested [JURIST report] for allegedly denying the Rwandan genocide. 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. In May 2010, Rwandan authorities arrested [JURIST report] US lawyer and JURIST Forum [website] contributor Peter Erlinder [professional profile; JURIST news archive] on charges of genocide denial while he was in Rwanda to prepare his defense of Ingabire. Erlinder returned to the US [JURIST report] in June 2010 after spending 21 days in a Rwandan prison.

 

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