Rwandan court drops all charges against opposition figure

Diane Rwigara, a critic of Rwanda's President

"All charges. have been dropped".

The pair faced up to 22 years in prison for the charges in the case that drew global attention to the East African country.

Diane Rwigara, 37, was arrested after challenging longtime President Paul Kagame in last year's election.

Critics still see Ms Rwigara's arrest and detention, and the auctioning of her assets, as a continuation of a trend of intimidation against anyone who opposes the government.

It also ruled that although the documents presented to the national electoral commission had indications of forged signatures, it was upon the prosecution to prove that she personally meant to forge the signatures, which it did not.

But it is also hard to ignore the fact that there was worldwide pressure, including from the US Congress, to drop charges against her - not that Rwandan authorities are in the habit of listening to external voices.

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Diane Rwigara was also charged with "forging or adjustment of documents" and "use of counterfeited documents", while her mother, Adeline, faced an additional charge of "discrimination and sectarian practices". "And if women are to be serving in office, they must be able to serve in every office, including the presidency and run for the presidency without becoming a political prisoner", said Bonamici.

Assinapol was an influential industrialist who played an important role in financing the ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front (FPR) in the 1990s before later falling out with its leaders.

"This is a testament that all these charges against me and my mother and family members are made up. I am extremely happy and I now have the energy and the zeal to continue my passion of fighting for freedom of expression and human rights in Rwanda", Rwigara told AFP news agency. The family has long said it was an assassination.

The courtroom, packed with diplomats and supporters, erupted in applause as Diane Rwigara and her mother were overcome with tears.

Authorities reject the criticism and point to the landlocked country's economic revival since the coming to power of Kagame, a former rebel leader who ended the genocide in which about 800,000 people died. "The court finds that the prosecution charges were baseless", the judges said in their ruling.

Rwanda regularly comes under fire from human rights groups for curbs on freedom of expression, extrajudicial killings, and lack of political freedom.

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