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Green Party Condemns Rwanda’s Arrest of Minnesota Attorney Peter Erlinder

The Green Party of Minnesota joins human rights advocates and people of good will across the world to call on the U.S. government, the United Nations, and non-governmental organizations to prevail upon Rwanda to release Peter Erlinder immediately. We applaud his defense of the human and civil rights of Rwanda presidential candidate Victoire Ingabire, who was charged in April, 2010, with the same crime of which Erlinder is accused — genocide denial.

Ingabire’s party, the United Democratic Front (FDU), works closely with the Democratic Green Party of Rwanda, within the Consultative Council of Opposition Parties. Both parties have suffered governmental persecution and severe limitations on their ability to organize.

Rwandan president Paul Kagame seeks to silence Erlinder’s efforts to expose the facts surrounding the 1994 Rwandan genocide (http://www.rwandadocumentsproject.net).

His arrest was politically motivated and effectively punishes him for fulfilling his responsibilities as a vigorous and conscientious legal advocate for his client.

“For decades Professor Erlinder has sought justice for his clients in the face of political repression,” says Gena Berglund, Associate Director, International Humanitarian Law Institute of Minnesota and a member of the Green Party. “I am very skeptical of a government that locks up lawyers for speech crimes.”

Peter Erlinder is a professor of law at William Mitchell College in St. Paul. In addition to his position as executive director of the Humanitarian Law Institute of Minnesota, he is Lead Counsel for the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) Defense Lawyers Association, past president of the National Lawyers Guild, and a practicing attorney. In an email sent to Berglund shortly before his arrest he wrote: “Victoire Ingabire, Rwandan Presidential Candidate, is like Mandela and I am very honored to be defending her.”

“Rwanda remains one of the largest recipients of U.S. foreign assistance in Africa,” says Berglund. “Given the U.S. government’s expressed commitment to democracy and the rule of law, it is critical that the Obama Administration and the U.S. Congress uphold these values in Rwanda and demand the immediate release of Peter Erlinder.”

[Green Party of Minnesota – www.mngreens.org]

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June 1, 2010   No Comments

Rwanda: “The doctors found there was nothing wrong with him…” said Police about jailed Prof. Erlinder

Prof. Peter ErlinderProf. Peter Erlinder

Kigali – The American attorney Prof. Peter Erlinder was taken to hospital Monday evening following hours of intense questioning by detectives, and there are even suspicions he may be poisoned. The Police fiercely dismissed the allegations saying there is nothing wrong with him, RNA reports.

Mr. Kurt Kerns, a fellow American lawyer who has taken up the case assisted by two Kenyan attorneys said the professor’s jail stay appears to be aggravating his health conditions, including high blood pressure. The Kenyan attorneys Kennedy Ogetto and Gershom Otachi demanded the medical intervention on Erlinder’s behalf.

Mr. Kerns has been barred from accompanying Erlinder during the interrogation. However, two Kenyan attorneys got credentials to practice in Rwanda and were representing him.

RNA can reveal that Mr. Kurt Kerns is one of the three lawyers with Prof. Erlinder who have filed a suit in US State of Oklahoma against President Kagame for the alleged assassination of the ex- Rwandan and Burundian presidents. Mr. Kerns is also the defense attorney of 83-year-old Genocide suspect Lazare Kobagaya, currently on trail on the state of Kansas.

“It’s a Rwandan jail, there are mosquitoes, not enough blankets, overcrowded conditions,” Kerns is quoted as saying Monday at about 11 p.m. in Rwanda.

Toward the end of the five hours, Erlinder said he was not feeling well and asked to see a doctor, sources narrated. He was transported to the high-end King Faisal hospital which is located in Kacyiru – within the same area as the CID headquarters where the Prof. is being held.

Police Spokesman Eric Kayiranga said Erlinder’s lawyers were allowed to take him to hospital, but said the doctors “did not find anything wrong with him.”

Meanwhile Erlinder’s wife, Masako Usui is quoted in US media as saying she is worried her husband could be killed in Rwanda. “I’m getting more and more angry,” she said.

Usui said Erlinder has high cholesterol and is running out of medication. Some of Erlinder’s allies in Rwanda have even warned her that the jailers may try to poison his food, according to her.

But Police Spokesman Kayiranga simply laughed off the allegations. “Who said Police makes people sick?” he asked.

“The doctors found there was nothing wrong with him….he was brought back for continued investigations,” he added.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota – Erlinder’s home state, said Monday that there’s no indication Erlinder was jailed for any reason other than representing his client, the opposition politician Victoire Ingabire. Senator Klobuchar said she has expressed her concerns to the U.S. State Department.

“I know their focus is on his fair treatment and that the process moves fairly and quickly, so we’re giving every [piece of] information to the highest levels of the embassy,” Klobuchar told US media. “Our hope is that there will be some kind of hearing either today, tomorrow, or Wednesday, and hopefully he can be at least released out of jail.”

But Klobuchar said she doesn’t know whether Erlinder will be able to come home anytime soon, as he works his way through Rwanda’s struggling judicial system.

The medical attention came on Erlinder’s fourth day of detention in a Rwandan jail. Last Friday, authorities locked up the American criminal lawyer for allegedly spreading what are considered illegal views on the 1994 Tutsi Genocide.

As for when the case will come to court, Police Spokesman Kayiranga said simply “you will be informed”.

[ARI-RNA]

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June 1, 2010   No Comments

Prof. Peter Erlinder’s arbitrary arrest by Rwandan authorities is a shame

We are saddened to witness powerlessly the arrest and arbitrary detention of Professor Peter Erlinder, the lead council of Ms. Victoire Ingabire, in Kigali on 28th May 2010. He was arrested by Rwandan authorities while he was working on the case of the Chair of FDU-Inkingi who is accused of genocide ideology and collaboration with a Rwandan terrorist group. He is accused of genocide ideology as well.

It is our highest duty to raise the serious concern about the impossibility of fair trial as the cases of Ms. Victoire Ingabire and Professor Peter Erlinder are concerned.

The arrest of the lead defence council of an opposition leader and a presidential candidate deepens the political crisis as the August 2010 presidential elections loom. This happens only a few days after an abusive statement of President Kagame boasting his upper hand on the Rwandan judiciary, and echoing his chief Prosecutor’s public statements that there is overwhelming evidence that Ms. Victoire is guilty. Curiously, they don’t transfer their final charges to a Court of law.

“The fact that this disinformation campaign originates from the highest levels of the Rwandan government was confirmed by President Kagame’s lengthy comments to the Monitor on May 23, 2010 in which he personally inserted himself directly in the legal case against the opposition leader, despite the fact that the case had been initiated by the Kagame administration’s Chief Prosecutor Ngoga, and which will be heard by courts that are dependent upon the Kagame administration for their appointment and tenure”.

A fair trial is being violated because international lawyers would fear that their motions will lead to indictments being issued against them for ideology of genocide.

In the eyes of this controversial Rwandan law on ideology of genocide, the defence or testimony to show the truth about the killings in Rwanda before, during and after the genocide would be taken as a proof of negation of the genocide. Then, the lawyers, experts’ witnesses and factual witnesses would fear the intimidation and threats to be arrested because of their positions to portray different views from Kagame’s regime.

These threats to be arrested raise the concerns of possibility of fair trial since the lawyers and experts would fear to give evidences about the truth expressed by Ms. Victoire Ingabire when she arrived in Rwanda mentioning that the Rwandan nation has to pay homage to all the victims of the tragedy without considering their ethnic backgrounds.

The arrest of Professor Peter Erlinder is not consistent with the freedom of fair trial and juridical representation since it tends to be extended to any lawyer who will come to defend the case.

Considering the whole dimension of this biased legal environment, threats, intimidation and frequent presidential interferences, I have informed the Prosecutor during today’s criminal interrogation that I will recourse, with immediate effect, to my right to remain silent until proper court hearings start.

Ms. Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza
FDU-INKINGI, Chair.
31.05.2010

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June 1, 2010   No Comments