A Rwandan court on Tuesday convicted opposition leader Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza [campaign website; JURIST news archive] of treason and genocide denial, sentencing her to eight years in prison. Ingabire was acquitted on charges [AP report] of terrorism and promoting ethnic division and a genocide ideology, while the judges found her guilty of belittling the 1994 Rwanda genocide [JURIST news archive]. The prosecutor recommended a life sentence [BBC report], but Ingabire was allegedly given leniency after writing a personal appeal to Rwandan President Paul Kagame. Ingabire returned from exile in the Netherlands in January 2010 and was arrested [JURIST report] in April 2010 and barred from participating in the country's elections. She did not attend the trial to hear her verdict, claiming that the trial was politically motivated. Her lawyer plans an appeal.
In April the Rwandan court ruled that the case against Ingabire would continue [JURIST report] despite her announcement that she refused to attend further proceedings. The court's ruling paved the way for the prosecution to begin its case in Ingabire's absence. 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.