On June 17, a Rwanda judge released U.S. Law Professor and international criminal defense attorney Peter Erlinder from a Rwandan Prison, on medical grounds.
Erlinder had been imprisoned since May 28th, several days after traveling to Rwanda to defend presidential candidate Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza against the same "genocide ideology" charges he now faces in Rwanda. He, however, will be allowed to leave Rwanda, to return to the United States, unlike Ingabire, who remains under house arrest..
Shortly after midnight on Friday, June 18th, Erlinder's daughter Sarah reported that she had spoken to him on the phone, that he had indeed been released, and that he would be home on Saturday, the 19th.
The Rwandan judge most likely released Erlinder on medical grounds because his release on legal grounds would have created a case that could be cited in arguments for Ingabire's release.
Ingabire left a Kigali courtroom with Erlinder's lawyers today, after the judge handed down a decision to release him as he remained in King Faisal Hospital.
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Ingabire issued this appeal to the international community to stand with Rwanda now as they have with Professor Peter Erlinder:
We are very pleased that an innocent person, who has committed himself for the defence of human rights and due process of law at the expense of his own life, is released from the inhumane conditions of a Rwandan jail. This is a result of relentless pressure on the regime. We are impressed by the struggle of his family, ordinary citizens, friends, scholars, colleagues, civil associations, journalists, human rights bodies, congressmen and senators for the work they did around the clock.
We wish to extend our sincere appreciation and gratitude to his family for courageously bearing this ordeal and doing everything possible to bring the matter to the attention of the US Government and the United Nations.
It is an open secret that his arrest was against all norms of judicial process. He cannot be held responsible for his expressed or written views in the defence of his clients. Once again the Rwandan judicial system has clearly demonstrated what the world has failed to believe for a long time: that there is no rule of law in Rwanda.
Rwanda News Agency
Professor Peter Erlinder, with the shaved head and pink prison costume that opposition leader Victoire Ingabire, whom he traveled to Rwanda to defend, wears now.
The UN and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) have established that the arrest and subsequent detention of Peter Erlinder were in violation of his immunity from legal process at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda where he is a lead defence council. This is raising up again serious questions on the capacity of the current regime to deal with ICTR cases or to provide fair justice to many Rwandan suspects held in different countries.
The arrest of Professor Peter Erlinder, a citizen of the United States whose government is a major ally of the Government of Rwanda and a person whose professional rights and credentials are covered by international conventions, clearly shows how difficult, if not impossible, it is for a Rwandan to get justice in Rwanda. This is particularly difficult for any person like myself attempting to challenge President Paul Kagame in an election. The arrest of my lawyer is also a deterrent against anyone who tries to defend me.
The contradicting declarations of the government, the chief prosecutor, and the police during the detention of Peter Erlinder have also highlighted how justice is done in Rwanda: fabrication of evidence, intrigue, manipulative tactics and unfairness.
We are appealing to the voices that have stood for Professor Peter Erlinder to continue to be on the side of Rwandans that Peter Erlinder has been standing and fighting for in order to get to the root causes of the Rwandan crisis.Ms. Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza
FDU – Inkingi, Chair.