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Dissident Rwanda Draws Support from US Congress

US congressional lawmakers pressured the Rwandan government against the imprisonment of dissident politician Diane Rwigara, who faces sentences of up to 22 years in prison after being found guilty of inciting rebellion and forgery.

Diane Rwigara, a former presidential candidate, is scheduled to be sentenced to December 6, along with her mother, Adeline Rwigara. The two women were tried on November 7, with the old Rwigara being convicted of rebellion and promoting ethnic hatred. They had been detained by police in October 2017 and were imprisoned for a year but were released on bail last month, before the trial. They remain at home in Kigali, the capital city, under the limits of travel.

"Peaceful political expression is not a crime. Running for office is not a crime," Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission – a bipartisan congressional caucus named for its founder – said in a tweet posted earlier Monday.

The Commission, which defends and promotes international human rights, has scheduled a December 4 briefing on Rwandan treatment of human rights and political prisoners, including Rwigaras.

Diane Rwigara ran for president in 2017, challenging Paul Kagame, but was disqualified after election officials alleged that some of the signatures needed for his nomination had been falsified.

In July 2017, activists began the People's Rescue Movement to "encourage Rwandan citizens to hold their government accountable," as he told CNN. He was later arrested on charges of sedition and fraud. His mother was also arrested for criticizing the government in exchange for WhatsApp with other families living outside Rwanda.

Diane Rwigara denied the allegations, saying Kagame tried to prevent him from speaking out against injustice. In an interview with VOA after the October release, he called for the release of political prisoners and other people who were detained unjustly.

Kagame oversaw the reconciliation of the Central African country after the 1994 genocide, but human rights groups have accused him and the ruling Patriotic Front of Rwanda increasingly clamped on dissent.

This report comes from VOA's Central Africa Service.

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