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Rwanda: American embassy declines comment on arrest of Ingabire’s American lawyer Peter Erlinder

Peter Erlinder

Peter Erlinder

Kigali: American national Prof. Peter Erlinder is scheduled to appear in court following arrest by Police detectives over negating the Tutsi mass Genocide. The arrest of the fire-brand criminal lawyer comes as President Kagame prepares to leave for Paris for a France-Africa summit, RNA reports.

Mr. Erlinder was rounded up Friday morning by detectives from the Criminal Investigations Department (CID). He was immediately moved to the CID office in the Police headquarters located within walking distance of the American embassy.

The controversial attorney was arrested for denying the 1994 Tutsi Genocide, said Police Spokesman Eric Kayiranga. “He is accused of [denying the massacres] through publications, conferences, constantly denying that there was never Genocide in Rwanda. He has also said everything we say about the Genocide is a fabrication.”

The Police Spokesman said Prof. Erlinder will be handed to the National Prosecuting Authority which should culminate into an appearance in a court within 72 hours.

When contacted, U.S. Embassy public affairs officer Edwina Sagitto simply said: “The embassy is aware of the arrest of Peter Erlinder by Rwandan Police. Beyond that, the embassy cannot comment due to privacy concerns.”

Peter Erlinder is a professor of law at William Mitchell College of Law in the United States. He directs the non-profit International Humanitarian Law Institute, and he is the lead defence counsel at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR).

The attorney arrived in Kigali on Sunday from a conference in Belgium which has been described by government and Genocide survivors as platform for negationists. Several Genocide fugitives were invited as speakers, including Dr. Eugene Rwamucyo, who was arrested by French authorities on Tuesday.

Police spokesman Kayiranga said Prof. Erlinder was arrested five days later because the dossier was still being prepared. “We do not just detain people … it is done after a dossier is ready,” he said.

The prosecutions department told reporters that the suspect will be paraded in court anytime but within the prescribed timeframe of not more than seventy-two hours.

Mr. Erlinder was picked up at 8:30am from the Tunisian-owned Laico Hotel (formerly Novotel Hotel) in Kacyiru where he was staying. Incidentally, the hotel is located within view of the American embassy.

He is described in Rwanda as the ‘big fish defender’ because of his association with Victoire Ingabire, Genocide accused Col Theoneste Bagosora and most recently former First Lady Agathe Kanziga Habyarimana. All the three carry serious accusations related to the Tutsi mass slaughter.

The arrest comes a day after the US government declared its stance on Rwanda, for the first time in several years coming out strongly against the human rights situation in the country. The top US diplomat for Africa, Johnnie Carson, demanded a “speedy, fair, and transparent trial” for Ingabire.

The American diplomat for Africa made reference to the suspended tabloids UMUVUGIZI and UMUSESO, as well as the Human Rights Watch researcher Carina Tertsakian who was refused a work permit in April. He also informed American lawmakers of the progress of the imminent trail of government critic Victoire Ingabire, as well as the registration of the two opposition parties.

“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,” Carson said Tuesday before the House Foreign Affairs Committee Subcommittee on Africa and Global Health.

However, Foreign Affairs Minister and Government Spokesman Louise Mushikiwabo strongly dismissed the concerns.

“The concerns expressed by the US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs over the state of rights and freedoms in Rwanda at this particular time need to be contextualized: it is a result of an out-of-Rwanda reading of the situation in Rwanda, with added election hype,” she said in an email message Thursday to RNA.

Meanwhile, after denouncing Prof. Peter Erlinder on Thursday in a statement, Genocide survivors on Friday took their anger to the American embassy. Carrying placards, a group of over 100 demonstrators including students in school uniform called for his arrest and prosecution.

Prof. Erlinder was part of a three-man team of lawyers who tried to serve President Kagame with a notice of suit at the Oklahoma University in April accusing him of responsibility for the assassination of ex-President Juvenal Habyarimana.

The suit was filed by Agathe Habyarimana and Sylvana Ntaryarima – the two widows to the presidents who died in the same plane on April 06 1994 – culminating into the Tutsi Genocide.

The arrest of the American lawyer also comes as President Kagame prepares to head to Paris for the France-Africa summit next week. It will be the first time the President has visited France since his time as a rebel leader.

Source: ARI-RNA.

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