Saturday, November 17, 2018

An American Lawyer Released from Rwandan Jail

A U.S. lawyer is released from a Rwandan prison on medical grounds. He was jailed for defending an opposition leader and denying the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

An American lawyer, by the name of Peter Erlinder, is 62 years old. He came to Rwanda to help with the legal defense of opposition leader Victoire Ingabire. Ingabire, a female Hutu who wants to run for presidency this during the August 9 elections. She is ready to face incumbent President Kagame. The problem with this plan is that she is in legal trouble.

She was arrested in April and charged with promoting a genocidal ideology. She was freed on bail but her passport was seized and she cannot leave Kigali. She is required to report at the court on a monthly basis until her case is closed. It is in this context that Mr. Erlinder felt obliged to come to Kigali in order to assist her.

However, according to Kigali justice, Mr Erlinder nurtures the same belief as his client Ms Ingabire, of negating the genocide. For this reason, Erlinder was put behind bars where he had been since May 28. Mr Erlinder, who is a law professor in Minnesota did not forget to thank U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton for saying Rwanda shouldn't arrest lawyers. He added that the US Embassy officials in Kigali have not helped much during his time in jail. This was disputed by the US Embassy spokesman who said that "Embassy officials visited Erlinder every day and were in a constant touch with his family," this according to Embassy spokesman Edwina Sagitto. "The Embassy also provided him food every day, and medicine from his doctors in the United States every day."

Before the Kigali court, Erlinder revealed that he suffers from high blood pressure. He said "my government insisted that I take my medications from my captors rather than bringing me medications directly," "It was impossible for them to arrange a doctor whom I would pay so that I wouldn't have to get my food and my medication from my captors." There was also a report that he attempted suicide in jail.

Finally, a Rwandan judge ruled Thursday that Erlinder, a lawyer at the International Criminal Tribunal of Rwanda, should be released from jail if he shows genuine evidence from his doctors about his health. Erlinder said that as soon as he is in America, he would soon go to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. He did not explain his health problems and declined to comment on his statements in a Rwandan court that he had attempted suicide in jail. The prosecutor of Rwanda stated that after medical release, he would continue the investigation of Erlinder’s case. To this day, Erlinder has not yet been officially charged, but Rwandan authorities detained him on suspicion that he is minimising and negating the 1994 genocide.

Erlinder continues to make new statements that could anger the government of Rwanda, which has laws against minimizing the 1994 genocide during which hundreds of thousands of Rwandans, the vast majority of them ethnic Tutsis, were massacred by extremist Hutus over 100 days. International accounts of the violence say at least 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed during Rwanda's genocide, which immediately started after the plane of President Juvenal Habyarimana was shot in April 1994. Erlinder said that "there is no question that there was a genocide in Rwanda. I've never denied it, and the prosecutors, after scouring all of my publications, were not able to find one time that I denied that there was a genocide against Tutsis." Erlinder added that "What I did say is that the story that this terrible genocide occurred after the assassination of Habyarimana was not something that had been long planned before the assassination, not because I say so but because that was the finding of the ICTR (International Criminal Tribunal of Rwanda)"

In conclusion, Mr Erlinder added that he can no longer act as an attorney for Ingabire. Choking back tears, he was willing to be grateful to his two Kenyan lawyers who decided to travel to Rwanda to defend him even though they too could have been put behind the bars.

About the Writer

MUGISHO N.THEOPHILE is a writer for BrooWaha. For more information, visit the writer's website.
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3 comments on An American Lawyer Released from Rwandan Jail

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By MUGISHO N.THEOPHILE on June 21, 2010 at 01:01 pm

Cher, that is the point although people who are courageous are rare. Majority of people get tired half way and so they cannot reach their target.Courage is a virtue that sometimes we can cultivate based on what we need to achieve and the environment. Courage is something to motivate.

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By JJFCPA on June 21, 2010 at 01:34 pm

You are the lens and the voice that allows many Americans to understand what life is like in Africa. The brutality in Rwanda has been chronicled by others, but your article keeps it is the news.

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By MUGISHO N.THEOPHILE on June 22, 2010 at 01:23 am

JJFCPA, thank you for this compliment and I love it. This is the importance of journalism and BrooWaha is leading in this. I think since globalization has become a reality, the world is no longer as wide as it has been in the past centuries but just a small village in which everyone has the right to know what is happening in its corners. Life in Africa covers different realities due to its multitude of cultures and traditions. I think the world needs to know about all this.

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