Former Rwandan presidential candidate Diane Rwigara was freed on bail on Friday after more than a year behind bars on charges she has called politically motivated after her outspoken challenge of one of Africa’s most prominent leaders.
A high court ordered the release of Rwigara and her mother, Adeline, with the condition that they stay in the capital, Kigali. It disagreed with the prosecution’s argument that they might flee.
“It’s a great day for us and we are looking forward for a fair trial ahead,” Diane’s sister, Anne, told The Associated Press. Diane Rwigara goes back to court on November 7 over charges of forgery and insurrection. She faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted on the insurrection charge.
The US-educated activist, who has spoken critically of President Paul Kagame’s human rights record, accused him of stifling dissent after she was barred from running against him last year. Kagame won a third term with more than 98% of the vote.
Rwigara had been disqualified from running, with the government saying she lacked enough supporting signatures and had forged some of them. She denied wrongdoing.
In an interview with the AP last year, she acknowledged the risks of running against one of Africa’s longest-serving leaders. Soon after she announced her intention to run, nude photos that Rwigara said had been manipulated were published on social media in what her supporters called an effort to undermine her credibility.
Rwanda has won praise for its advances in economic development and women’s rights over the past 20 years, but critics say Kagame does not tolerate criticism. His government has rejected such accusations.
Rwigara is the daughter of the late Assinapol Rwigara, a businessman who fell out with the government before his death in a car accident in 2015.
Her release on bail comes weeks after another prominent Rwandan opposition leader was freed from prison following the government’s early release of more than 2 100 prisoners with little explanation.
After her release, Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza urged Kagame to release all other political prisoners.