Who's actually defending Victoire Ingabire?
The defence team of Victoire Ingabire, leader of the opposition party United Democratic Forces (UDF), is getting ready for trial. Ingabire is accused of collaborating with a terrorist organisation, dividing the people of Rwanda and denying the 1994 genocide. But who is actually defending her? Three lawyers are struggling to find their way in this "sensitive and very unclear" case.
Robert Alun Jones
A top British laywer, Jones represented the Spanish government in the famous case against former Chilean dictator Genaral Augusto Pinochet (1998-2000).
The barrister has past experience with Rwanda. He successfully defended Vincent Brown, a Rwandan doctor arrested in London on suspicion of murder during the Rwandan Genocide in 1994. Kigali demanded his extradition. Jones, who had been living for years in the UK, was acquitted in 2009.
Jones will defend Ingabire, not in his own country but in Rwanda.
Edwards, a British lawyer with ten years of experience behind him, is specialised in criminal law and human rights. He is fluent in French and also has a particular interest in immigration issues with clients facing the risk of deportation.
Edwards has also been working for the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in Arusha, Tanzania. His clients are charged with genocide and crimes against humanity arising from the Rwandan 1994 genocide.
“We hope that it will be a fair trial. But it’s far too early to say”, Edwards told RNW on the phone with regards to Ingabire’s case. He sees it as being sensitive and very unclear.
“We have no idea what the schedule looks like, but it seems that the prosecutor has a limited amount of evidence. Ingabire hasn’t even been charged yet. We think that the prosecutor is still trying to find evidence.”
Edwards met with Ingabire in Kigali this year, when he dealt with the imprisonment of her American lawyer Peter Erlinder.
By proximity, this Rwandan lawyer is probably the most engaged one in Ingabire’s case. He visits her regularly in her cell.
According to Gatera, Ingabire’s imprisonment is "unlawful". Until now, he feels that the judge has not taken his arguments into consideration, he told RNW.
"The accusation is based on a testimony of a person who declared that he and Ingabire had the intention to create a military organisation. This declaration cannot be taken into consideration because this person is also accused. According to our law, this testimony doesn’t have any value”, Gatera argues.
"Furthermore, there are e-mails in which Victoire has written about the military organisation to fight the power in place in our country. But according to our laws, e-mails don’t have any value in court."