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Rwanda's exiled activist's wife charged with treason


The Rwandan-British wife of a member of the Rwandese opposition in exile appeared Thursday in a court in Kigali, accused of “forming an illegal armed group”.

Violette Uwamahoro, dressed in a grey dress and a blue jacket, rejected all charges against her at the hearing which will decide whether she should remain in custody until the start of her trial at an undetermined date.

“The prosecutor wants to keep Madam (Uwamahoro) in prison but we demand her release” because she is pregnant, his lawyer Antoinette Mukamusoni told AFP. The decision will be rendered on Monday.

Violette Uwamahoro is accused, along with her cousin Jean-Pierre Shumbusho, of among other charges of “revealing state secrets” and “forming an illegal armed group”.

According to her lawyer, Mrs. Uwamahoro was accused of having asked Mr. Shumbusho, a policeman in Kigali, via the WhatsApp messenger, to reveal “information about state security” and to ask him “to go to Uganda to form an armed group to attack Rwanda”.

“It’s a lie,” insisted Mrs. Uwamahoro after the charges were read. “Yes, we used to chat but I never talked to her about anything related to national security. We were only discussing family stories,” she maintained.

Mrs. Uwamahoro is the wife of Faustin Rukundo, a Rwandan National Congress (RNC) official, an opposition party in exile formed by former officials of Rwandan President Paul Kagame and whom Kigali calls a “terrorist” group.

Residing in the United Kingdom since 2004, Uwamahoro had traveled to Rwanda to attend her father’s funeral upon which she was arrested.

Rukundo who is currently in UK has denounced in the British press the “kidnapping” of his wife by the Rwandan intelligence services, and linked it to his own political activities. He maintains that his wife is not politically engaged.

Uwamahoro’s whereabouts were unknown for more than two weeks before Rwandan police confirmed on 3 March that they had detained her on suspicion of engaging in “serious crime”.

“Violette Uwamahoro was detained illegally, without being able to contact a lawyer or her family for more than two weeks. This is an unacceptable violation of Rwandan and international laws,” Amnesty International said on Tuesday.

Ms. Uwamahoro’s arrest and “other cases of arbitrary detention seem destined to stifle dissenting voices” in the run-up to the presidential election scheduled for August 4, Amnesty International said.

President Paul Kagame is expected to run for a new term.

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