After spending one year in a Rwandan prison waiting for the country’s high court to decide on her case, Diane Rwigara feared the worst.
The 37-year-old told Sky News: “I will just have to accept it and go to prison because I guess that is the price that you pay for freedom.”
The former financial accountant faced a 22-year spell in jail for “inciting insurrection” and “forgery” after she tried to run in last year’s presidential election against Rwanda’s long-time president Paul Kagame.
Her mother, Adeline, also faced a 22-year term after sending messages that were critical of the government on Whatsapp to her sister and a couple of her friends.
But in a surprise judgment, the court found that both members of the Rwigara family were innocent.
“All charges… have been dropped. The court finds that the prosecution charges were baseless,” said one member of the three-judge panel.
While the decision will come as a great relief to both women, it will not erase what the pair have been through.
Ms Rwigara’s difficulties began when she declared her candidacy in Rwanda’s 2017 presidential contest.
Her 44-year old campaign manager, Thadeyo Muyenzi, went missing and has still not been found.
Then, nude photos – purportedly of Ms Rwigara – were published and shared on social media.
Finally, the country’s election board banned her from participating after they accused her of forging people’s signatures in support of her bid. Kagame won a third term in office with 98% of the vote.
Undeterred, the budding politician launched her own political party called the People Salvation Movement, but the police raided the family home – detained the accountant and her mother for the following 12 months.
Speaking to Sky News hours before the verdict was announced, Ms Rwigara said she was targeted by the state because she is prepared to challenge Kagame and his ruling clique.
She added: “This is what happens when you dare to have a different political opinion – a different view from those in the government.
“This is what happens if you don’t disappear like my campaign manager or get thrown into prison or lose your life. So yes, you do pay a price for speaking out in this country.”
Paul Kagame, the country’s towering, beanpole-like president, has been widely praised for his role in providing stability and economic growth after Rwanda’s catastrophic genocide in 1994.
However, human rights groups and others have tired of his increasingly autocratic style.
Criticism of the government is rarely tolerated and in 2015, he engineered a constitutional amendment which means he can hold the presidency until 2034.
Amnesty International welcomed the court’s verdict on Diane and Adeline Rwigara but called on the Rwandan government to do more to protect freedom of expression and political debate: “[They] should never have faced charges for expressing their views.
“We call on the Rwandan authorities to build on this judgment and work towards developing greater tolerance and acceptance of alternative and critical views.”
Ms Rwigara, who is described as “fearless” by those close to her, is not about to apologise for attempting to hold Rwanda’s leaders to account. Nor is she likely to stop trying.
“I speak the truth, that the system is built on a lie,” she said. “They simply do not want to be exposed.
“The lie is that everything is well in Rwanda and I just talk about [the reality] which is the high level of unemployment, the high level of poverty, the disappearances, the killings, all that, and they are not ready for that to be exposed.”
Man jailed for sharing footage of Christchurch mosque shooting | World News
A man has been jailed in New Zealand for sharing footage of the al Noor Mosque attack.
Christchurch businessman Philip Neville Arps had admitted two charges of distributing an objectionable publication after the shootings.
On Tuesday he was jailed for 21 months, with a judge saying he had “glorified” the shootings.
Fifty-one Muslims died after being shot as they attended Friday prayers at the Al Noor and Linwood mosques in March.
The al Noor shooting was streamed on Facebook.
Arps, among 13 people charged regarding the attack material, distributed the video to approximately 30 people on the social networking site, the court heard.
The second charge related to him asking another person to add crosshairs and a “kill count” to the video, intending to use this as a meme.
He was arrested days after the shootings and has been kept in solitary confinement since then.
In comments reported by the NZ Herald, Judge Stephen O’Driscoll said on Tuesday that Arps, 44, had “strong and unrepentant views towards the Muslim community”.
The court heard that Arps, who runs what was described as an insulation company that has used neo-Nazi imagery, showed “particular cruelty” in sharing the footage the day after the attack.
A pre-sentence report said Arps showed no remorse or empathy for any of those affected.
Judge O’Driscoll said some parts of the pre-sentence report were concerning but he did not mention them publicly, wary of Arps considering them a “badge of honour”.
The judge did, however, say that Arps had once compared himself to Nazi war criminal Rudolf Hess and that the report said he was a high risk of re-offending.
According to TVNZ, Arps faces six months of strict conditions after he completes his sentence.
These include psychiatric assessments, drug and alcohol treatment and a ban on using the internet.
Facebook, the world’s largest social media platform, has been criticised for being slow to take down footage of the attacks, which was deemed objectionable by New Zealand’s Chief Censor.
Along with other social media, Facebook has long been under pressure to do more about hateful and abusive posts.
Toronto Raptors: Two injured in shooting at victory parade for NBA champions | World News
Two people have been injured in a shooting at a victory parade for the Toronto Raptors basketball team, police have said.
Tweets from people attending the parade at Nathan Philips Square said they heard several gunshots, which sparked a stampede from the crowd.
Canadian journalist Diana Weeks said she heard four shots in total, but “thought they were fireworks”.
She added: “I don’t even know what to say right now.”
“Started running for our lives. This is not Toronto. Children crying… ppl running.”
Videos of the incident showed people running to exit the square as the incident unfolded.
Toronto police said the victims’ injuries were “serious but not life threatening”, and that two people had been arrested.
Two firearms have also been recovered.
More than a million people had lined the streets on Monday to celebrate the Raptors’ – and Canada’s – first ever NBA championship win.
The team was paraded aboard five double-decker buses through the city, before coming to an end at the square.
Several public figures delivered speeches, including Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Mr Trudeau, Toronto’s mayor and Raptors player Kawhi Leonard remained on stage as the incident unfolded, and resumed celebrations shortly after.
Teenager survives after 10in blade narrowly misses his brain | World News
Surgeons have told a 15-year-old Kansas boy who got a 10in knife embedded in his skull when he fell on it that he was within millimetres of death.
The knife narrowly missed Eli Gregg’s brain with the tip pushing against his carotid artery, which supplies the brain with blood.
Dr Koji Ebersole, who oversaw the removal, said: “It could not have had a pound more force on it and him survive that event.
“I don’t think he would have survived it.”
Eli’s mum Russell said her son was playing in the garden on Thursday when she heard him scream.
She found him with the large knife jutting out from just below his eye.
“It looked pretty grim, it was scary,” she said.
Within 24 hours of the surgery, Eli was able to talk and make light of the situation.
His mum added: “He says he is going to stay away from sharp objects.”
World7 days ago
Kazakhstan election incites violent protest in Nur-Sultan, Almaty
World6 days ago
My skateboard career is the bravest thing I’ve done
Politics1 week ago
Economy added just 75,000 jobs in May, amid trade tensions and global economic slowdown
Politics1 week ago
ICE doesn’t know how many veterans it has deported
Latest News1 week ago
Border patrol agent saves woman and son from thousand of bees | US News
World1 week ago
Raytheon and United Technologies agree to all-stock merger of equals
World1 week ago
Trump plays risky game by weaponizing tariffs
Politics1 week ago
House will call spy hunters to testify about Trump campaign, Russia contacts