Rwanda: Civil rights group petitions for government to release Diane Rwigara

A civil rights group has petitioned the government of Rwanda to release Diane Rwigara, presidential aspirant who is in prison together with her sister and mother. Nearly 3,000 people have so far signed the online petition demanding that the Rwandan government releases the three women.

35-year-old Diane Rwigara the Rwandan Presidential hopeful was disqualified from running against President Paul Kagame in the August presidential election due to charges of forgery and inciting insurrection during her bid to run for president.

Rwigara has had a hard time since with follow up charges of evading taxes of nearly Rwf5 billion ($6 million) her sister Anne and mother Adeline will also be charged with multiple charges including inciting insurrection and promoting sectarianism.

Head of prosecution Faustin Nkusi told local media that the three women will “share a charge of inciting insurrection or trouble amongst the population but we have a separate charge for Diane Rwigara which is use of counterfeited documents”. Diane’s mother Adeline Rwigara is also facing a separate charge of “using discrimination and sectarian practices”, he added.

They pleaded not guilty and said their arrest and detention are politically motivated. The three were refused bail pending trial on the tax evasion allegations related to the family’s tobacco company. If found guilty for the charge of inciting insurrection, they could face 10 to 15 years in prison.

Their arrests has been described by civil society and rights organisations as politically motivated and a petition was started by the civil rights group African Great Lakes Action Network (AGLAN) for her and her families release.

“Demand that Paul Kagame and the Rwandan regime produce Ms. Rwigara and immediately release her, her mother and the other family members,” they stated.

Rwigara’s sister Anne said they had not had enough access to their lawyer. Adeline Rwigara had told the court that they had been tortured and deprived of food.

The country’s revenue authority has threatened to auction their properties including mansions, lands and cars if they don’t settle the outstanding bill. “If they have not paid the tax by the end of November, we shall begin to put their properties on the market,” the Commissioner General of Rwanda Revenue Authority Richard Tusabe threatened.

The authority has since closed down their company and proposed a payment plan of 12 months to renege on the decision to auction their properties. Anne Rwigara who is the head of the family business told the court that she is being forced to sign the payment plan which they do not agree with.

Nearly 3,000 people have so far signed the online petition demanding that the Rwandan government releases the three women.

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