Rwigara welcomes decision to drop appeal, vows to continue with her rights crusade

Wednesday January 9 2019

Diane Rwigara (front L), a critic of Rwanda's President

Diane Rwigara (front left), a critic of Rwanda's President, reacts as she leaves the Kigali's High Court, on December 6, 2018 after the judges dropped all the charges and declared her not guilty of forgery and inciting insurrection. PHOTO | CYRIL NDEGEYA 

By IVAN R. MUGISHA
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Rwandan government critic Diane Rwigara is off the hook after the Ministry of Justice instructed the prosecuting authority to drop their appeal against her acquittal.

Rwigara, who always maintained that the charges against were politically motivated, welcomed the decision by the Ministry of Justice, noting that she will “continue to fight for freedom of expression and human rights in Rwanda.”

The 38-year-old accountant and her mother Adeline Rwigara were late last year acquitted of multiple charges in a trial that had attracted a lot of attention globally.

Rwigara, a former presidential aspirant, was charged with inciting insurrection and forging endorsement signatures that were required for her win a place on the presidential ballot, for which she risked up to 22 years in jail.

Her mother was charged with inciting insurrection and promoting sectarianism.

They were arrested in September 2017 and spent over a year in jail before being released on bail in October last year, and eventually declared not guilty on December 6, with a three-judge bench of the High Court finding the charges "baseless".
Appeal

The National Public Prosecution Authority (NPPA) thereafter filed an appeal at the Court of Appeal on December 27.

Ms Rwigara told The EastAfrican that she had been notified of the appeal by her lawyer, and they had been preparing for another day in court.

But on December 31, the prosecutors received a letter from the Ministry of Justice, instructing them to withdraw the appeal.

“We got an injunction from the Ministry of Justice and Attorney General to withdraw our appeal. This is a constitutional injunction and the minister has the power to make that order, so we have written to the court to withdraw the appeal,” Faustin Nkusi, Spokesperson of NPPA, told The EastAfrican.

Article 145 of the Rwandan Constitution gives the Minister of Justice the power to instruct the Prosecutor General to undertake or refrain from investigating and prosecuting an offence in cases of urgency and in the public interest.

Justice Minister Johnston Busingye, was not immediately available for comment, but was quoted in Rwandan press as saying that the decision was on the premise that the acquittal of the Rwigaras by the High Court was “enough in the circumstances” and that there are better uses for public resources than pursuing this case at the Court of Appeal.