Rwanda has decided to immediately free Victoire Ingabire, an opposition leader jailed for 15 years, after President Paul Kagame exercised his power to grant mercy.
Ingabire, who leads the unregistered FDU-Inkingi opposition party, was freed along with other prisoners, including singer Kizito Mihigo, jailed in 2015 for plotting to kill President Paul Kagame, the justice ministry said in a statement.
“There is nothing political about her release, there is nothing political about her imprisonment,” Justice Minister Johnston Businge told Reuters by telephone, downplaying the significance of Ingabire’s release.
Ingabire was jailed for 15 years in 2012 for conspiring to form an armed group to undermine the government and for seeking to minimize the 1994 genocide.
She returned from exile in the Netherlands to contest a presidential election in January 2010, but was barred from standing after being accused of genocide denial.
Her lawyer welcomed the decision to free her.
“Since the beginning of the trial we have been requesting her release and now that she is going to be free, we are all happy,” Gatera Gashabana told Reuters.
More than 800,000 people were killed in Rwanda when an ethnic Hutu-led government and ethnic militias went on a 100-day massacre.
Afterwards, Kagame, who won a third term in August last year, was lauded for bringing about economic improvements, but he has faced increasing accusations of human rights abuses, suppression of the opposition and reining in the media.