President Paul Kagame of Rwanda, using his power to grant mercy, has decided to immediately free Victoire Ingabire, an opposition leader jailed for 15 years.
Ingabire, who leads the unregistered FDU-Inkingi opposition party, will be freed along with other prisoners, including singer Kizito Mihigo, jailed in 2015 for plotting to kill President Paul Kagame, the justice ministry said in a statement.
“There is nothing political about her release, there is nothing political about her imprisonment,” Justice Minister Johnston Businge told Reuters by telephone, downplaying the significance of Ingabire’s release.
“The president has granted mercy, and under the constitution, he is allowed to do that,” he said, when asked for comment, adding that she had asked for mercy two times in the past, including last June.
In total, the beneficiaries to the clemency are 2,140 convicts from different parts of the country, majority of whom from Huye District, where 484 got early release, Rwanda’s New Times reported..
Ingabire had in 2013 had her conviction upheld on appeal by Supreme Court, which saw her lower court eight-year sentence increased to 15 years in prison.
Arrested in 2010, Ingabire was convicted for inciting the masses to revolt against the government, forming armed groups to destabilise the country, and minimising the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
Ingabire was convicted on evidence, including some furnished to Rwandan judicial authorities by the Dutch government, attesting to the fact that she was fundraising for FDLR, a terror group linked to the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
She had for many years lived in The Netherlands, where she had been naturalised a citizen.
On his part, Mihigo was in February 2015 convicted to 10 years in prison after he pleaded guilty to crimes including conspiracy to murder President Paul Kagame and other top leaders of the country.
The precise time of Ingabire’s release was not immediately clear but officials and lawyers said it would be on Saturday.
Her lawyer welcomed the decision to free her.
“Since the beginning of the trial we have been requesting her release and now that she is going to be free, we are all happy,” Gatera Gashabana told Reuters.
More than 800,000 people were killed in Rwanda when an ethnic Hutu-led government and ethnic militias went on a 100-day massacre.
Afterwards, Kagame, who won a third term in August last year, was lauded for bringing about economic improvements, but he has faced increasing accusations of human rights abuses, suppression of the opposition and reining in the media.
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