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Ingabire’s appeal: Stand with Rwanda as with Prof. Erlinder

June 18, 2010

by Ann Garrison

Supporters of Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza fear she will be arrested for talking to the press. She is the leading challenger to Paul Kagame for the presidency of Rwanda in the upcoming election Aug. 9. – Photo: FDU-Inkingi Party
On June 17, a Rwanda judge released U.S. law professor and international criminal defense attorney Peter Erlinder from a Rwandan prison on medical grounds.

Erlinder has been imprisoned since May 28, several days after traveling to Rwanda to defend presidential candidate Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza against the same “genocide ideology” charges he now faces in Rwanda. Erlinder, however, will be allowed to return to the United States, unlike Ingabire, who remains under house arrest in Rwanda.

Erlinder was most likely released on medical grounds because his release on legal grounds would have created a case that could be cited in arguments for Ingabire’s release.

Ingabire left a Kigali courtroom with Erlinder’s lawyers Thursday, after the judge handed down a decision to release him as he remained in King Faisal Hospital.

Ingabire issued this appeal to the international community to stand with Rwanda now as they have with Professor Peter Erlinder:

“We are very pleased that an innocent person, who has committed himself for the defense of human rights and due process of law at the expense of his own life, is released from the inhumane conditions of a Rwandan jail. This is a result of relentless pressure on the regime. We are impressed by the struggle of his family, ordinary citizens, friends, scholars, colleagues, civil associations, journalists, human rights bodies, congressmen and senators for the work they did around the clock.

“We wish to extend our sincere appreciation and gratitude to his family for courageously bearing this ordeal and doing everything possible to bring the matter to the attention of the U.S. government and the United Nations.

“It is an open secret that his arrest was against all norms of judicial process. He cannot be held responsible for his expressed or written views in the defense of his clients. Once again the Rwandan judicial system has clearly demonstrated what the world has failed to believe for a long time: namely, that there is no rule of law in Rwanda.

American Law Professor Peter Erlinder and Rwandan presidential candidate Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza together at Erlinder’s June 14 bail hearing. She is under house arrest and he was in prison, after traveling to Rwanda to defend her. – Photo: Rwanda News Agency
“The U.N. and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) have established that the arrest and subsequent detention of Peter Erlinder were in violation of his immunity from legal process at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda where he is a lead defense counsel. This is raising up again serious questions on the capacity of the current regime to deal with ICTR cases or to provide fair justice to many Rwandan suspects held in different countries.

“The arrest of Professor Peter Erlinder, a citizen of the United States whose government is a major ally of the government of Rwanda and a person whose professional rights and credentials are covered by international conventions, clearly shows how difficult if not impossible it is for a Rwandan to get justice in Rwanda. This is particularly difficult for any person challenging politically President Paul Kagame. The arrest of my lawyer is also deterrent against anyone who tries to defend my case.

The arrest of my lawyer is also deterrent against anyone who tries to defend my case.

“The contradicting declarations of the government, the chief prosecutor and the police during the detention of Peter Erlinder have also highlighted how justice is done in Rwanda: fabrication of proof, intrigue, manipulative tactics and unfairness.

“We are appealing to the voices that have stood for Professor Peter Erlinder to continue to be on the side of Rwandans that Peter Erlinder has been standing and fighting for in order to get to the root causes of the Rwandan crisis.”

Ms. Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza

FDU – Inkingi Chair

San Francisco writer Ann Garrison writes for the San Francisco Bay View, Digital Journal, Examiner.com, OpEdNews, Global Research, Colored Opinions and her blog, Plutocracy Now. She can be reached at anniegarrison@gmail.com. This story originally appeared in Digital Journal.

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