Rwanda Information Portal

U.S. government pleased with Erlinder release from Rwanda prison

The United States welcomed Thursday the decision by the High Court to grant bail to its national Peter Erlinder.
In the Daily Press Briefing of June 17th, the Acting Deputy Department Spokesman, Mark C. Toner, declared:
We would just like to say we’re pleased with the Rwandan court today – that the Rwandan courts today granted Mr. Erlinder an unconditional release on medical grounds. U.S. Embassy officials were present at the hearing and contacted Mr. Erlinder’s family immediately.

This release comes following comments from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton over the Erlinder issue on June 14th.

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June 18, 2010   No Comments

Release of US lawyer Peter Erlinder from Rwandan prison doesn’t mean case is closed

Kigali – The decision to grant bail to Peter Erlinder was made out of concern for his physical and mental health and in no way diminishes the seriousness of the charges against him, Rwanda’s Prosecutor-General Martin Ngoga said after the ruling was handed down by the High Court Thursday.

“Bail on health grounds cannot be mistaken as vindication for Mr. Erlinder – it just proves that the justice system he so freely criticizes was willing to show him compassion with respect to his physical and mental wellbeing.

“This will not deter the prosecution as we finalize the case against Mr. Erlinder. He will soon be called to defend his record of genocide denial that insults the people of Rwanda and inflames those who seek to harm us,” Mr. Ngoga said.

On the other hand, Erlinder some family members said they are struggling over whether Erlinder should continue to fight the charges against him in Rwanda.
“Knowing Peter, he’s a pretty honorable guy, and if he thought that was the right thing to do, he would do it,” Scott Erlinder said. “But before any of that happens, the family would really want to talk to him. We have an awful lot of respect for him, but we also love him.”

Erlinder’s wife Usui said that while she’s happy her husband is returning home, she wants his name cleared. “I hope it’s done with Rwanda, but if it’s not, we should still keep fighting against the charges,” she said. “I’m still in a fighting mood.

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June 18, 2010   No Comments

Ingabire’s declaration after release of her lawyer Erlinder from Rwandan prison

Victoire Ingabire, chair of opposition party FDU-Inkingi

Victoire Ingabire, chair of opposition party FDU-Inkingi

After the release on Thursday by a Rwandan judge of U.S. Law Professor and international criminal defense attorney Peter Erlinder from a Rwandan Prison on medical grounds, her client and presidential candidate Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza, who remains under house arrest, issued this appeal to the international community:

We are very pleased that an innocent person, who has committed himself for the defence of human rights and due process of law at the expense of his own life, is released from the inhumane conditions of a Rwandan jail. This is a result of relentless pressure on the regime. We are impressed by the struggle of his family, ordinary citizens, friends, scholars, colleagues, civil associations, journalists, human rights bodies, congressmen and senators for the work they did around the clock.

We wish to extend our sincere appreciation and gratitude to his family for courageously bearing this ordeal and doing everything possible to bring the matter to the attention of the US Government and the United Nations.
It is an open secret that his arrest was against all norms of judicial process. He cannot be held responsible for his expressed or written views in the defence of his clients. Once again the Rwandan judicial system has clearly demonstrated what the world has failed to believe for a long time namely that there is no rule of law in Rwanda.

The UN and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) have established that the arrest and subsequent detention of Peter Erlinder were in violation of his immunity from legal process at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda where he is a lead defence council. This is raising up again serious questions on the capacity of the current regime to deal with ICTR cases or to provide fair justice to many Rwandan suspects held in different countries.

The arrest of Professor Peter Erlinder, a citizen of the United States whose government is a major ally of the Government of Rwanda and a person whose professional rights and credentials are covered by international conventions, clearly shows how difficult if not impossible for a Rwandan to get justice in Rwanda. This is particularly difficult for any person challenging politically President Paul Kagame. The arrest of my lawyer is also deterrent against anyone who tries to defend my case.

The contradicting declarations of the government, the chief prosecutor and the police during the detention of Peter Erlinder have also highlighted how justice is done in Rwanda: fabrication of proof, intrigue, manipulative tactics and unfairness.

We are appealing to the voices that have stood for Professor Peter Erlinder to continue to be on the side of Rwandans that Peter Erlinder has been standing and fighting for in order to get to the root causes of the Rwandan crisis.

Ms. Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza
FDU–Inkingi, Chair.

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June 18, 2010   2 Comments

American lawyer Peter Erlinder “unconditionally released” from Rwandan jail

Prof. Peter Erlinder

Prof. Peter Erlinder

Kigali – American lawyer and accused Tutsi Genocide denier Peter Erlinder was released on bail from detention in Kigali on Thursday for health reasons, though he has yet to be released from hospital.

Erlinder was arrested 20 days ago in Kigali, accused of denying the 1994 Tutsi Genocide. He was denied bail in intermediate court last Monday. He appealed in high court on Monday, and the verdict was pronounced in an hour-long ruling ending around 5 p.m. this Thusday afternoon.

It is ordered that Professor Carl Peter Erlinder be hereby unconditionally released from detention on health grounds as explained above,” said Judge Johnson Busingye. “It is ordered further that investigations into his case will proceed while he is not in detention.

The decision overturned the intermediate court ruling to keep Erlinder in detention for 30 days while the prosecution built a case against him.

Erlinder and his lawyers argued on Monday that the lower court ruling didn’t take into account Erlinder’s medical conditions. They presented three doctors’ testimonies, signed by United States secretary of state Hillary Clinton, to back up their claim.

Erlinder himself gave testimony of his three visits to hospital, first for high blood pressure, second for attempted suicide caused by depression, and third for cotton stuck in his ears.

The prosecution argued that Erlinder’s medical records were inconsistent and incredible, and they said Erlinder would tamper with witnesses and evidence should he be released.

The day after the hearing, Erlinder was admitted to hospital a fourth time, for very high blood pressure. According to his lawyer Ken Ogetto, his doctor said he was unfit to attend and the prison guards tending to him decided to keep him in hospital.

On the issue of medical conditions, the judge sided firmly with Erlinder.

“No matter how great the accusations, his physical and mental health must take precedence over the case against him,” he said. “One reason is that it would be unjust to put his life at risk of morbidity or mortality as suggested by his doctors.”

Erlinder can now return to America for medical treatment, though he is ordered to cooperate with the prosecution for the genocide denial case ahead.

It seems the decision is exactly what Erlinder’s lawyers were aiming for.

“I am happy with it. I don’t know about my client, whether he is happy with it, but I imagine he will be,” said Kenyan lawyer Otachi Gershom.

Prosecutor Jean Bosco Mutangana held his head in his hands during the ruling, and he refused to comment.

The date of Erlinder’s actual trial is still uncertain, and his client, presidential hopeful Victoire Ingabire, is unsure of whether and how soon Erlinder can defend her in court.

“I hope that he can go on as my lawyer,” she said. “I hope that soon my case he will also fight in the court and that we can work together”

[ARI-RNA]

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June 18, 2010   No Comments