By the agencies
Detained on charges of buying weapons for subversive activity
On Oct. 15 Rwandan police confirmed that they were conducting further investigations to arrest all suspects in an alleged plot to form a ‘terrorist group’ after detaining an opposition leader.
‘Investigations are continuing to ensure that all the other people involved are arrested,’ police spokesman Eric Kayiranga told AFP.
Victoire Ingabire — the leader of the unregistered United Democratic Forces (FDU) — was arrested on Oct. 14 in Kigali on the basis of information given by a former military officer.
According to police, the officer, Major Vital Uwumuremyi, who was arrested a day earlier on the border of Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, said he had received Ingabire’s assistance to ‘set up a military wing of the FDU.’
Ingabire and Uwumuremyi are currently detained at Kicukiro police station in Kigali waiting to be taken to court, a police statement said.
In a press release sent at 5 a.m. Pacific Time on Oct. 14, FDU-Inkingi Executive Secretary Sylvain Sibomana wrote: ‘After a week of siege without any explanation whatsoever, the police has just drifted in the house and arrested Ms. Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza, the Chair of FDU-Inkingi. She was taken immediately to the headquarters of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) for unknown reasons. This arrest comes amid a climate of heavy political tension marked by wanton attacks against the democratic opposition.’
According to the FDU-Inkingi website on Oct. 18, Ingabire is suffering from ill-treatment, including loss of weight and lack of sleep. Her party also alleges that the clothes and mattress that was provided to her by her team on Oct. 14, was kept away by her jailers as a means to humiliate and keep her under pressure.
The FDU-Inkingi site also alleges that Ingabire has been forced to sit up in handcuffs at night and has been denied hygienic items such as a tooth brush, toothpaste or a towel. The Rwandan government, adds the website, does not allow other people to reach her.
However, in a telephone interview with the Daily Monitor, Eric Kayiranga, the Rwanda Police spokesperson, denied the FDU allegations. Mr. Kayiranga said Ingabire was in good health, was being treated humanely and had spoken to her lawyer before she was questioned by the police. ‘Anyone who wants to visit her is free to do so as long as they follow police procedures and guidelines,’ he said. ‘It is not the culture of the Rwanda Police to mistreat or intimidate detainees. We deny FDU’s allegations categorically,’ Mr. Kayiranga insisted.
Both Ingabire’s and Major Vital Uwumuremyi arrests stem from their involvement, ‘on charges of forming a terrorist organization known as Coalition of Democratic Forces (CDF) which is a military wing of the FDU-Inkingi,’ as reads a statement released by the National Police.
The charges against them ‘include buying and distributing arms and ammunitions to the terrorist organisation and threatening national security and public order,’ according to the Rwandan police statement.
A declaration on Oct. 15 from the FDU and two other opposition groups, the Democratic Green Party and a faction of PS Imberakuri, said the charges against Ingabire seemed to be ‘politically motivated’.
They called for her immediate release ‘with no more conditions and the release of all other political prisoners.’
On Oct. 16, US-based campaigners Human Rights Watch (HRW) called on Rwandan authorities to allow the opposition ‘to carry out their legitimate activities’ following the arrest of an opposition leader.
‘The Rwandan government should fully respect the rights of opposition party members and allow them to carry out their legitimate activities without fear for their safety,’ HRW said.
‘If she (Ingabire) is to be charged, it should be on the basis of solid evidence, not as a punishment for her criticisms of the government,’ it added.
HRW deplored that colleagues who brought her food and water on Friday morning were not allowed to see her in Kicukiro police station, where she is being detained.
‘The police should grant Ingabire access to visitors and should respect her rights to due process,’ Rona Peligal, HRW’s Africa director said.
HRW also voiced concern about the state of health of another opposition leader, lawyer Bernard Ntaganda, president of the PS-Imberakuri, who has been in detention since June.
According to HRW, Ntaganda is gravely ill after going on a hunger strike to protest his treatement in prison, and was rushed from Kigali’s central prison to the city’s main hospital on Oct. 15.
‘His relatives and friends reported that he was in intensive care, but were not given specific information on his condition. Some of them were able to see him briefly in hospital and reported that he was very weak,’ HRW said.
‘We are worried about Bernard Ntaganda’s condition,’ Peligal said. ‘The authorities should ensure he has access to appropriate and prompt medical treatment and that family and friends are allowed to visit him.’
‘The authorities should ensure that proper medical information about the condition of his health and the treatment he is receiving is available to his family,’ HRW added.
Ingabire, a Hutu, has been under police investigation over comments she made following her return to the country in January regarding Rwanda’s 1994 genocide in which some 800,000 people, mainly minority Tutsis, died.
Whilst visiting a memorial to the victims of the Tutsi genocide, Ingabire said that Hutus killed by Tutsi forces should also be commemorated.
Ingabire was first arrested in April on accusations of associating with a terrorist group, denying genocide, promoting genocide ideology and division.
Key among those accusations is her alleged association with the DR Congo-based Hutu rebels, some of whom took part in the genocide.
After her release, she was placed under police investigation and banned from travelling outside the capital Kigali pending trial.
Authorities also thwarted her attempts to register the FDU and run for the August 9 presidential election in which incumbent President Paul Kagame won a landslide.
Ingabire denounced the elections as a ‘masquerade’, demanded a re-run and called on Rwanda’s international partners to ignore the polls’ outcome.
Authorities also arrested Ingabire’s colleague Joseph Ntawangundi in February to serve a sentence handed down in absentia in 2007 by a grass roots court trying genocide suspects.