Four exiled Rwandan opponents slam jail sentences
Nairobi (AFP) Jan 16, 2011
Four former close aides of Paul Kagame Sunday dismissed as politically motivated heavy jail terms passed on them in absentia, accusing the Rwandan president of misusing justice to target his foes.
On Friday a Rwandan military court sentenced former army chief of staff General Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa and Major Theogene Rudasingwa to 24 years in prison.
Former spy chief Patrick Karegeya and Gerald Gahima, the former attorney general and Rudasingwa's brother, were meanwhile both handed terms of 20 years.
Nyamwasa and Karegeya are in exile in South Africa while Gahima and Rudasingwa are exiled in the United States.
The four staunch opponents of Kagame were prosecuted for "disturbing public order, threatening state security, making insulting and defamatory remarks, sectarianism and criminal conspiracy."
"We reiterate once again that we are innocent of the crimes that we have been accused of," they said in a joint statement received in Nairobi. "We are not criminals; we are patriots who advocate for an end to dictatorship and advancement of freedom."
"Rwanda's military justice system is not independent, but is instead used by President Kagame to persecute both civilians and military personnel whom the president considers to be political enemies or threats," they added.
Dismissing the charges as "completely politically motivated," the Kagame foes said the aim was "to suppress political opposition, deprive Rwandan citizens of the right of political participation, consolidate authoritarian rule and to suppress the truth about the deplorable human rights situation and state of governance in Rwanda.".
They said the verdicts were yet another sign of "Kagame's arrogance and vengefulness against former colleagues who have fallen out with him."
Karegeya and Gahima were tried as civilians. Under Rwandan law if military personnel conspire with civilians to commit a crime, the civilians are also tried in a military court.
The four, all of whom were once in Kagame's inner circle, last September co-authored a document slamming what they said was the repression of freedoms in Rwanda since Kagame's arrival in 1994.
They accused Kagame of being authoritarian, corrupt and driving the country back towards a conflict on the same scale as the 1994 massacres.
"The people of Rwanda, together with the rest of the international community, have a moral duty to work to end this repressive system of government," the four said in a 60-page report.
Rutaremara and Kagame's defence advisor Brigadier General Richard Rutatina retorted the following month that none of the four had the integrity or the moral authority to criticise the Rwandan government.
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Mogadishu (AFP) Jan 16, 2011
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