Rwanda Information Portal

Rwanda: Prof. Erlinder has denied all allegations – says his Kenyan defense attorney

Report concerning Peter Erlinder
(02 June 2010, 1611 Eastern Standard time)
From Kennedy Ogetto

This evening about an hour ago counsel Ogetto spoke to Peter at the hospital for 2 minutes (all that they could allow) in the presence of the policemen guarding him.

Please note that since the allegation of attempted suicide came through this morning, he has been unable to consult Peter to verify this allegation.

But for reasons I advanced earlier, the allegation is suspect given the fact that up to now no communication has been made to counsel regarding the circumstances surrounding the alleged suicide attempt including the time, the manner etc.

He (Erlinder) then stated he was revoking anything which may have been interpreted as offensive by the Rwandans.
Wonder what that means!!!

There is no reason why Peter would want to commit suicide. Significantly, attempted suicide is a crime in Rwanda and one wonders if the stage is being set to charge him with another crime.

Regarding the alleged confession counsel states authoritatively that there is no such thing- at least in the statements that he recorded before us.
Peter denied all the allegations. He denied his writings constitute any crimes. He emphasized that his writings and speeches are all protected by free speech guarantees under the US constitution and the laws of the commonwealth of which Rwanda is a member. He then stated he was revoking anything which may have been interpreted as offensive by the Rwandans . We don’t consider this to be a confession.
Kennedy Ogetto.

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June 3, 2010   No Comments

Jailed american lawyer Erlinder in ‘remorse state’ and “ready to retract his statements in writing and never return to Rwanda”

Rwanda authorities say American lawyer Peter Erlinder is in a ‘remorse state’ and is ready to give up Victoire Ingabire’s defence if released.
This appears to be the main message conveyed by Rwanda prosecution as reported in the New Times article “Police foil Erlinder suicide attempt” below:

KIGALI – Embattled American lawyer, Peter Erlinder, tried to commit suicide in his cell by dissolving over 50 tablets in water and drinking the concoction, but was lucky that police intervened in time, it was revealed yesterday. Erlinder was still in hospital by press time, recovering from the cocktail of drugs for controlling high blood pressure and depression.

The lawyer was arrested last week and charged with Genocide Denial.

“He was supposed to undergo further interrogation by the prosecution in the morning. They found that he had taken a concoction of drugs and he needed emergency medical attention,” Kayiranga said.

According to the Director of the National Police Hospital at Kacyiru, Dr. Daniel Nyamaswa, Erlinder had a list of prescription drugs which included anti-depressants and drugs to cut down high cholesterol levels.

“As you know, the previous day we had taken him to hospital after he complained of heart problems and high blood pressure as well as a history of depression. He told us that he had an artificial valve in his heart though doctors found none.

“I have also taken time to talk to him about his illnesses and most of them are mild and not very life threatening. However, what happened this morning (yesterday) was very strange,” Nyamaswa said.

According to the doctor, he held an intimate discussion with Erlinder who told him that the suicide attempt was triggered by fear of possibly being jailed for many years.
“He said he took between 45 and 50 pills, indeed these drugs could have threatened his life, but doctors intervened in time and his condition is improving.

“We checked his kidneys, heart, liver and blood to ascertain whether there were high levels of intoxication but we found no cause for alarm,” Nyamaswa said.

If what the Rwandan Police reports is true, Peter Erlinder’s morale has fallen too low in one week and can not compare with the optimism and determination he had before boarding the plane to Rwanda. Watch his interview he gave on May 23rd in Brussels:
Rwanda: “How I am treated will tell us a lot about the nature of the Rwandan government…”, Peter Erlinder

Erlinder underwent immediate counselling where he expressed his fears of serving time, and he said he would rather choose death than a life sentence, police officials said.

According to the doctor, Erlinder is in a ‘remorse state’. He told the prosecution that he is ready to retract his statements in writing and never return to Rwanda.

“He told us he understands the gravity of his case and has been cooperative. We even showed him the law on genocide denial and he said he already had the law. He knows he will appear in court to answer charges,” said Tony Kuramba, the head of Interpol liaison office in Rwanda, who was part of the investigations.

Kayiranga could not reveal whether they would charge the lawyer with attempted suicide, a criminal offence in the country, saying that it would be determined after he is discharged from hospital. Erlinder is currently admitted at King Faisal Hospital in Kigali.

[New Times]

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June 3, 2010   2 Comments

Rwanda Prosecutor furious against Erlinder’s lawyer Kurt Kerns

Prosecutor General Martin Ngoga addressed a press conference at his offices and voiced his anger against Kurt Kerns, the American lawyer who is in Kigali to defend jailed ICTR lawyer Prof. Peter Erlinder.
Here is what the pro-governement daily New Times writes:

Erlinder’s lawyer riles Prosecution
KIGALI – Prosecutor General, Martin Ngoga has warned an American lawyer, Kurt Kerns, that he risks landing into trouble for making derogatory remarks about the Rwandan Police.

Ngoga made the threats during a press conference he called at his office, yesterday. Kerns is in the country as part of the defence team of Peter Erlinder, another American lawyer charged with Genocide denial.

According to Ngoga, by referring to the country’s Police officers as “young criminals” as reported in the US press, Kerns risks expulsion from the country.

“We are taking issue over remarks that appeared in some media outlets in Minnesota that are attributed to one of the lawyers, Mr Kurt Kerns, who is on Erlinder’s legal team”.
In an email reproduced in the Twin Cities Daily Planet by journalist Mary Turck, Kerns referred to the police who arrested Erlinder as “punks”

“While the arresting officers were punks, his guards are treating him well,” Kerns says in his mail.

“He sent an email that was reproduced, where he referred to our Police officers with an expression that would mean young criminals – punks. If you called an American Police officer a punk, you would certainly face the law,” Ngoga said.

He added that is not only inappropriate, but also offensive for anybody to refer to any country’s police officers carrying out duties authorised by law, as punks or criminals. The Prosecutor General noted that the operation to arrest Erlinder was mounted by the Deputy Commissioner of Criminal Investigations, who is a senior officer, and out of diligence, ensured that an official from the US Embassy was present.

“To say that these officers are punks or young criminals, a remark that would be used to refer to street criminals in the US, and actually has a racist tone, is not appropriate and acceptable.

“In any event, we are ready to cooperate with these lawyers, but if such arrogance continues, some will have to be shown the door,” Ngoga warned.

“A Police officer executing a legal mandate cannot certainly be a punk. We consider the remarks a hitch in the process that is supposed to be professional.”

He, however, said that despite the remarks, prosecution is ready to cooperate with the defence team because the right to defence is guaranteed by the country’s constitution where any suspect has a right to choose his or her attorney.

Ngoga added that the country’s laws allow anybody to come from Kenya or the US to defend people in Rwanda, despite it being practically impossible for Rwandan advocates to practice in these countries.

“We are proud of their presence. It adds value to our laws and institutions for such people to come here and do what they want. But in this case, we find these remarks attributed to him very offensive and unacceptable. If he was really professional, he would go out there and apologise,” Ngoga added.

Kurt Kerns is one of the three lawyers with Prof. Erlinder who have filed last month a lawsuit in US State of Oklahoma against President Kagame for the alleged assassination of the Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana and his Burundian counterpart Cyprien Ntaryamira.
More about the Oklahoma court case:
Oklahoma Lawsuit Alleges Rwandan President Paul Kagame Triggered Rwanda Genocide
Lawsuit in Oklahoma (US) district court against Rwandan President Paul Kagame et al. – full document

Kerns, who has been in the country before to gather evidence in his defence for a Genocide fugitive on trial in the US, Lazare Kobagaya, is also reported to have described the nature of the case against Erlinder as “pathetic” and “ridiculously weak”.

Ngoga revealed that Erlinder himself, in the presence of his legal team, acknowledged that he made statements which he is ready to retract and that there is full compliance and ‘no breach’ of procedures during interrogation.

“Some people have been referring to our applicable law as repressive,but that’s their choice… our law is available in many countries.

“The law that punishes Holocaust denial is applicable in many countries. It’s under the same context that we have a law that punishes Genocide denial, which we consider detrimental to our national security; long term and short term,” Ngoga said.

Ngoga insisted that the country is certainly not going to be intimidated or scared away from doing what its law dictates just because some people prefer to call the law repressive.

He said that there shouldn’t be any surprise in Erlinder’s decision and Kerns utterances. He said that the duo is not short of controversy, given their choices of cases, but warned that Rwanda would not tolerate their ‘stubborn behaviour.’

Two Kenyan lawyers, Kennedy Ogetto and Gershom Otachi BW’Omanwa, have also joined Erlinder’s defence team, but not as strangers. Erlinder and the two Kenyans worked on the so-called “Military 1” trial at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR).

The Kenyans were defending Colonel Anatole Nsengiyumva while Erlinder’s client was Major Aloys Ntabakuze. Both the defendants were found guilty of Genocide and war crimes and sentenced to life in prison.

The two parties also met at a conference in Brussels that Erlinder helped organise, a few days before his arrest. The conference brought together well-known revisionists and some Genocide suspects.

One of the suspects, Eugene Rwamucyo, was arrested shortly after the conference by French authorities on Genocide charges. He is awaiting extradition proceedings.

[New Times]

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June 3, 2010   1 Comment

Rwanda prosecutor says Erlinder’s american lawyer Kurt Kerns could be expelled

Kigali – Government is demanding that Mr. Kurt Kerns publicly appologise to the Rwanda National Police or the three lawyers to embattled Prof. Peter Erlinder are forced out of the country, Prosecutor General Martin Ngoga said.

Mr. Kerns is currently leading the three-man defense team of detained Erlinder. The others are Kenyan attorneys Kennedy Ogetto and Gershom Otachi – who have acquired accreditation for the defense of the embattled Erlinder.

Kurt Kerns is one of the three lawyers with Prof. Erlinder who have filed last month a lawsuit in US State of Oklahoma against President Kagame for the alleged assassination of the Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana and his Burundian counterpart Cyprien Ntaryamira.
More about the Oklahoma court case:
Oklahoma Lawsuit Alleges Rwandan President Paul Kagame Triggered Rwanda Genocide
Lawsuit in Oklahoma (US) district court against Rwandan President Paul Kagame et al. – full document

Prosecutor General Ngoga told an impromptu press conference in the morning that Mr. Kerns was propagating information in the American media that Rwandan Police are “killers” who could even poison the detainee Erlinder.

Mr. Kerns must extend a public apology to the National Police or he could be barred from staying in the country along with his co-attorneys, according to Ngoga, at the press briefing in which no questions were allowed.

In one of the American newspapers, Mr. Kerns said Monday: “It’s a Rwandan jail, there are mosquitoes, not enough blankets, overcrowded conditions.”

He was commenting on the hospitalization of his client Mr. Erlinder. Mr. Kerns also described the case against his client as “ridiculously weak” and “pathetic”, to a US radio station.

Mr. Kurt Kerns is not new to trouble. He 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.

RNA has not been able to secure comment from the defense team, but the BBC Kinyarwanda service reported Wednesday evening that Kennedy Ogetto – one of the Kenyan defense attorneys was shocked to be informed that Prof. Erlinder had been hospitalized over alleged suicide.

Police had told reporters at around mid-day that Mr. Erlinder had swallowed 50 tablets of three medications including Sertraline for depression, Metoprolol for hypertension and simvastatin for high blood pressure.

Assistant Commissioner of Police Dr. Daniel Nyamaswa, who also heads the newly built high-end Police hospital, said after the suicide attempt, the medication was removed from Erlinder and he will be taking the drugs from the doctors at King Faisal Hospital.

“I do not want to stay in prison anymore, I prefer to die,” said Erlinder to doctors, after making him vomit all the medications and recovering from the traumatic experience, according to ACP Dr. Nyamaswa.

However, attorney Ogetto told the BBC Kinyarwanda service that he had not been able to see their client by 1900hours. Apparently, when he met Erlinder in the morning, he was in normal health, and that doctors had requested he be allowed to rest for another 24hours to recover from the Monday hospitalization.

Meanwhile, the Prosecutor General Ngoga told the press that Erlinder is “retracting everything” that he has said about the Tutsi Genocide. “Part of what Erlinder is saying in our statements now is that he is retracting everything he has said with respect to the Genocide,” said Ngoga.

The country’s top prosecutor revealed that Erlinder had committed to leave the country immediately if he is released, and will never return except with an invitation from the authorities.

Ngoga said all these statements had been made in the presence of his lawyer, but it was not clear which of the three attorneys.

However, attorney Ogetto reportedly expressed shock at information he was getting from media reports such as RNA suggesting Erlinder was giving-in.

By press time, it was not clear if the defense had managed to meet Erlinder.

[ARI-RNA]

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June 3, 2010   No Comments

Declaration of the US Department of State about Peter Erlinder’s incarceration in Rwanda

During the US Department of State daily press briefing, a question has been raised about Peter Erlinder’s conditions in Rwanda jail.
Here is what the Assistant Secretary Philip J. Crowley had to say.

On May 25th, the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State on African Affairs Johnnie Carson gave a testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Committee Subcommittee on Africa and Global Health in Washington, DC, and said:
“The political environment ahead of the election has been riddled by a series of worrying actions taken by the Government of Rwanda, which appear to be attempts to restrict the freedom of expression.”

“We have relayed our concerns about these developments to the Government of Rwanda, urging senior government leaders to respect freedoms of expression, press, association, and assembly.”

If Peter Erlinder is killed in the Rwandan jail, how will the US explain their lack of commitment to request his immediate release?

QUESTION: Do you have any update on the status of this American lawyer who was arrested in Rwanda? There are some reports that he tried to kill himself in prison this morning.

MR. CROWLEY: I can’t say.

QUESTION: And apparently, his wife or his family is trying to – is seeking a meeting here at the State Department.

MR. CROWLEY: All I can tell you is that we have visited and spoken with Peter Erlinder. He was taken to the hospital this morning and remained there overnight for observation. His U.S. and Rwandan attorneys have had access to him and we expect that due process will be accorded by the Rwandans in a timely and transparent way.

QUESTION: Do you know why he was taken to the hospital?

MR. CROWLEY: I do not.

Source: http://www.state.gov

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June 3, 2010   3 Comments

Claim of Peter Erlinder’s suicide attempt in Rwanda is disputed

A source close to William Mitchell law Prof. Peter Erlinder said poor conditions in his cell might have triggered an illness.

By RANDY FURST, KEVIN DIAZ and PAUL WALSH, Star Tribune staff writers

The overseas ordeal of Peter Erlinder took another bizarre turn on Wednesday when Rwandan police claimed that the St. Paul law professor attempted suicide in his jail cell and made a confession, while a source close to Erlinder in Rwanda said it was not true.

“It is complete poppycock,” said the source in a telephone interview from Rwanda.

On May 25th, the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State on African Affairs Johnnie Carson gave a testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Committee Subcommittee on Africa and Global Health in Washington, DC, and said:
“The political environment ahead of the election has been riddled by a series of worrying actions taken by the Government of Rwanda, which appear to be attempts to restrict the freedom of expression.”

“We have relayed our concerns about these developments to the Government of Rwanda, urging senior government leaders to respect freedoms of expression, press, association, and assembly.”

If Peter Erlinder is killed in the Rwandan jail, how will the US explain their lack of commitment to request his immediate release?

Erlinder was arrested Friday on allegations that he has denied the 1994 Rwanda genocide. He had traveled to the African nation to represent opposition presidential candidate Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza, who herself has been charged with promoting “genocide ideology.”

The fast-changing developments on Wednesday had colleagues and relatives in the United States shaking their heads and arguing that Rwandan authorities were lying in an attempt to railroad Erlinder.

His daughter, Arizona attorney Sarah Erlinder, said the family does not believe her father tried to take his life. “I have no idea what the truth is,” she said, moments after meeting Washington staffers of Rep. Betty McCollum, D-Minn., who have tried to contact the Rwandan Embassy in the United States. “Knowing him, none of us believe that he would try to kill himself. It’s not him.”

Gena Berglund, Erlinder’s legal assistant, said Erlinder has never been suicidal. “He is a very strong, optimistic person,” she said.

Sarah Erlinder said her father, a professor at William Mitchell College of Law, carried medication for high-blood pressure and cholesterol, but that it may have been running low. Asked if he might have taken a non-lethal overdose to get out of jail and into medical treatment, she said, “It’s definitely possible … but we just don’t have any good information.”

Whatever happened, she said, the incident “makes us more concerned for his safety. It seems to be getting more critical by the day.”

U.S. Embassy officials visited Erlinder on Wednesday and said they remain in close contact with him while he’s in the hospital and in police custody. But a State Department spokesman said he couldn’t disclose any information about Erlinder’s hospitalization because of medical confidentiality.

Also Wednesday, Paul Rusesabagina, whose story was made famous in the movie “Hotel Rwanda,” issued a statement calling for Erlinder’s release. “Professor Peter Erlinder was in Rwanda doing his job as a lawyer,” he said. “In a civil society, that is not grounds for arrest.”

Rwandan police said they found Erlinder slumped over in his jail cell on Wednesday morning. The police said he had swallowed 45 to 50 pills and told them he was attempting suicide. Authorities said they intervened before the pills could take effect and took Erlinder to a hospital.

But the source in Rwanda described Erlinder’s condition as “fine,” adding: “He is healthy … it is clear that he did not make a suicide attempt.” The source said Erlinder was taken to the hospital because he was feeling ill, perhaps from abysmal jail conditions. “He has a foam mattress on a dirty floor with no pillow and one sheet and no mosquito net.”

Erlinder was interrogated further by police Tuesday, and told them he’d committed no crimes, the source said. He told them, however, that if anything he said had violated the law, he would “revoke” the statement. The source said police wrongly took this to be a confession. Instead, the source said, throughout the interrogation, Erlinder’s reaction to allegations he committed a crime were “denial, denial, denial.”

Erlinder is not denying that mass killings occurred in Rwanda, says Bruce Nestor, a Minneapolis attorney and friend. But he has asserted the current Rwandan President Paul Kagame is complicitous in the slaughter.

Despite pressure from Erlinder’s family and associates, State Department officials declined to call for his release or question the circumstances of his incarceration or medical treatment. Instead, they said they “expect the Rwandan authorities will accord Mr. Erlinder due process in a timely and transparent manner.”

The State Department statement added: “We expect the Rwandan authorities to continue to take Mr. Erlinder’s health into consideration.”

Erlinder’s backers say this falls far short of the diplomatic pressure that could be exerted by the U.S. government, a close ally that provides hundreds of millions of dollars in annual foreign aid to Rwanda.

“The U.S. State Department could stop this in 30 seconds,” said Daniel Mayfield, a defense attorney who served on the board of the National Lawyers Guild with Erlinder. “One phone call … ”

Randy Furst • 612-673-7382 Kevin Diaz • 202-408-2753 Staff writer Paul Walsh contributed to this report.

Source: Star Tribune

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June 3, 2010   No Comments

Rwanda Police claim jailed lawyer Peter Erlinder tried to “commit suicide”

Prof. Peter Erlinder

Prof. Peter Erlinder

Kigali – Under intense interrogation from detectives, detained American Prof. Peter Erlinder swallowed up to 50 tablets meant to treat hypertension and other medical conditions – which the Police now says is also another crime, RNA can exclusively reveal.

On Wednesday Morning, Erlinder had been scheduled to return to the interrogation room where he is facing the investigators from the National Prosecuting Authority, but detectives found him partly unconscious in his cell, according Police Spokesman Eric Kayiranga.

“The interrogation by prosecution was to continue today because it had not been finished yesterday,” said Kayiranga.

He was rushed to the high-end King Faisal Hospital where doctors managed to resuscitate him, say the Police. Since Tuesday, Mr Erlinder has been handed over to prosecution.

The Police spokesman reportedly says Mr. Erlinder later told doctors of what happened – revealing he had taken some 50 tablets. They were apparently part of the treatment he has been undergoing since he was hospitalized on Monday over high blood pressure, hypertension and depression.

“He did not attain his objective to commit suicide,” said Kayiranga.

“Erlinder said the cases against him are very serious and had wanted to kill himself,” said Kayiranga.

The Police now says by trying to commit suicide, Mr. Erlinder adds another criminal offense on the Genocide denial charge sheet.
[ARI-RNA]

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June 3, 2010   No Comments

ICTR says Peter Erlinder’s immunity does not apply to Rwanda cases

by ARI-RNA
Kigali: Detained American Peter Erlinder has immunity from prosecution as a defense lawyer at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda but that applies only when he is in Rwanda on work related to the tribunal, the Arusha (Tanzania) based court said Wednesday.

ICTR spokesman Roland Amoussouga said the court was trying to find out if the Rwandan judicial authorities “intend to use Erlinder’s work at the ICTR as evidence for the prosecution”.

“Erlinder was not in Rwanda for reasons linked to his activities at the ICTR. This doesn’t mean the ICTR will not take an interest in his fate, but rather that the formulation of the ICTR’s reaction will depend on what elements the prosecution decides to use against the accused,” Amoussouga told Agence France Presse (AFP).

He said the court does not claim to have the power or the mandate to obtain immunity for its lawyers in cases that are not directly linked to their work at the ICTR.

“There are two situations where we can claim immunity for our lawyers: when they are on a trip for the ICTR and when the actions they are accused of committing were carried out in the framework of a case they are defending at the ICTR,” he said.

The arrest of Erlinder “and the questions he is being asked do not seem to be linked to his activities at the tribunal”, Amoussouga said.

The court was reacting Wednesday to fierce criticism from its defense attorneys over charges it has failed to take action after the arrest in Rwanda Prof Peter Erlinder for allegedly denying the 1994 Genocide.

Two French lawyers at the tribunal, Arthur Vercken and Anta Guisse, on Tuesday slammed what they said was the ICTR’s silence over Erlinder’s arrest.

“To date it seems the ICTR has not raised the slightest protest against this arrest or demanded the immediate freedom of this lawyer who is on its list and who represents an accused person,” Vercken and Guisse said in a statement.

The two, who are defending a former senior official in Rwanda’s interior ministry, Callixte Kalimanzira, charged with genocide, said they fear Erlinder’s pleas at the ICTR may be used as evidence against him in Rwanda.

“The ICTR acted swiftly, by communicating as early as Monday with the Rwandan authorities,” the court’s spokesman Amoussouga said, emphasizing that the ICTR is “in contact with the relevant Rwandan authorities and with Peter Erlinder’s legal team”.

Meanwhile back here in Rwanda, following the reported suicide of Mr. Erlinder, Prosecutor General Martin Ngoga says the intense interrogations will he halted as he recovers in hospital.

On Tuesday, Prof. Erlinder’s file was transferred from police to prosecution – marking a possible court appearance soon. He was interrogated by investigating prosecutors till late evening and it was decided the process would continue Wednesday, says prosecution.

However, police detectives transporting Erlinder found him unconscious on Wednesday morning as they prepared to transport him to the prosecution office which is located within the same Kacyiru area as the police headquarters.

“Investigations will be halted until doctors rule [Erlinder] fit to continue with the interrogations,” Ngoga told a press conference.

Peter Erlinder, who heads the association of defence lawyers at the ICTR, was arrested on Friday last week in Kigali where he came to defend opposition politician Victoire Ingabire, who is also accused of denying the genocide.

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June 3, 2010   1 Comment