RWANDA: President Kagame pardons jailed opposition leader Victoire Ingabire

Rwandan Opposition leader Victoire Umuhoza

KIGALI – President Paul Kagame on Friday exercised his prerogative of mercy to grant early release to over 2,000 inmates convicted for various crimes.

Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza and Kizito Mihigo

According to the cabinet statement released Friday, Victoire Ingabire, who has been in detention since 2010 and musician Kizito Mihigo who has been serving a 10-year sentence will benefit from the clemency.

“Cabinet today approved the early release of 2,140 eligible convicts. Among them are Kizito Mihigo and Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza, who received a Presidential commutation of the remainder of their sentences, following their most recent requests for clemency in June 2018,” Rwanda Ministry of Justice said on Twitter.

The Cabinet statement said the “sentences were commuted by presidential prerogative” following the convicts’ most recent applications for clemency in June.

It noted that Rwanda’s constitution gives the president “authority to exercise the prerogative of mercy in accordance with the procedures provided for by law and after consultation with the Supreme Court.”

Victoire Ingabire, who was sentenced in 2013, was serving 15 years on charges of terrorism.

Human Rights Watch said the charges against Ingabire, who was trying to challenge Kagame in the 2010 elections, were politically motivated.

Ingabire was accused of collaborating with the mainly Hutu Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) rebel group operating in neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Kagame’s government has often accused the FDLR of playing a part in the country’s 1994 genocide in which hundreds of thousands of Rwandans were killed in a 100-day massacre.

Victoire Ingabire had always denied the charges against her.

Mihigo was sentenced to 10 years in 2015 for conspiring against the government. Mihigo, a Tutsi survivor of Rwanda’s 1994 genocide, was well-known for singing the national anthem at official ceremonies.

The year of his arrest, he released a song called Meaning of Death that was banned by the authorities, apparently for touching on sensitive issues about the genocide.

Articles 245 and 246 of the Code of Criminal Procedure in Rwanda provides for the release on parole of a convict who has served at least one-third of a sentence of less than 5 years, or two-thirds of a sentence greater than 5 years, provided at least one of the different conditions stipulated under the law are met.

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