News / Africa

Rwandan Minister Defends Ingabire 8-Year Prison Sentence

A file picture taken on November 10, 2011 shows Rwandan opposition leader Victoire Ingabire at the Rwandan High Court in Kigali.
A file picture taken on November 10, 2011 shows Rwandan opposition leader Victoire Ingabire at the Rwandan High Court in Kigali.
James Butty
Rwanda’s justice minister said the guilty verdict of opposition leader Victoire Ingabire was based on proof beyond reasonable doubt.

Ingabire, president of the FDU-Inkingi party was sentenced Tuesday to eight years in prison after she was found guilty on two counts of terrorism charges, including trying to raise an armed group.

She has denied the charges.

“The prosecution, indeed the investigative machinery of the judicial apparatus produced evidence in court as provided for by the law. But at the end of the day, the court made the verdict, made a decision. It must be recall that there were a total of six charges and she was acquitted on four of them,” he said.

But the U.S.-based Human Rights Watch Tuesday described the verdict as the culmination of a flawed trial that it said included politically motivated charges.

Daniel Bekele, Africa director at Human Rights Watch said the Rwanda court should not be used for such political purposes.

“While we are not in the position to comment on the veracity of the charges of her alleged involvement with armed military violence, we nonetheless believe that the charges against her, particularly based on the Rwandan genocide law is a politically motivated one, and the trial process has been one which was characterized by political bias which was characterized by intimidation of witnesses who testified against her,” he said.

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Justice Minister Karugarama said international organizations such as Human Rights Watch are biased and only criticized African governments.

“You cannot start judging the judges. It doesn’t happen anywhere except in parts of Africa where everybody, human rights organizations, people with different agendas want to judge the judges, which we find very, very strange indeed,” Karugarama said.

He said if Ingabire is not satisfied with the verdict, she can appeal to the Supreme Court for a review.

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Karugarama rejected accusations the trial and the verdict were politically motivated.

“Why should we have politically motivated charges? This was a public trial, and there was evidence adduced in the court of law," he said. "I want to believe that the judges that made the decision made it from the basis of the weight and the evaluation of the evidence that was adduced before the court of law. And it would be a shame if people do not accept that the judicial process should take place openly and fairly, and they want to judge the judges, something they cannot do in their own system."

Igabire was accused of collaborating with the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), an armed group operating in eastern Congo that consists in part of individuals who took part in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.

She was accused and tried alongside four co-defendants. All four pleaded guilty to charges of belonging to a terrorist movement.

Human Rights Watch, citing witness, said the witnesses were detained at a military camp and coerced to incriminate Ingabire.

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