Rwanda's highest court has sentenced a leading opposition politician to eight years in prison in a case connected to the 1994 ethnic genocide. The suit was seen as a test of the judiciary's independence.
Victoire Ingabire was found guilty on Tuesday on terror charges and a charge of minimizing Rwanda's 1994 genocide. Her British lawyer, Iain Edwards, said Ingabire would appeal the conviction, which he called "disappointing."
Judge Alice Rulisa told the court: "She has been sentenced to eight years for all the crimes that she was found guilty of."
In her judgment, Rulisa said Ingabire, who leads the unregistered FDU-Inkingi party, was "found guilty of the crime of conspiring in harming authorities through terrorism and war," as well as minimizing the genocide. The charge of "calling another genocide," was however, dropped.
The accusations of crimes relating to genocide denial were triggered when the Hutu politician made remarks in January 2010 at a memorial for the estimated 800,000 people, the majority of them minority Tutsis, who were murdered in 1994. Ingabire commented that it was time that Hutu victims killed during the genocide were also commemorated.
Ingabire barred in 2010
Ingabire had returned to Rwanda in 2010 from the Netherlands to contest an election but was barred from standing.
On Tuesday, Edwards, her legal representative, said Ingabire would appeal the conviction.
"We thought she would be acquitted of all charges, but we will appeal, first to the Supreme Court and then, if that fails, we will go to the African Court on Human and People's Rights," he said, of the court based in the Tanzanian city of Arusha.
Ingabire had boycotted the trial in April this year saying her "trust in the judiciary" had waned, after a witness who accused the Rwandan authorities of rigging evidence against her was cut short.
The witness, a former spokesperson of the Hutu rebel group the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), said Rwandan intelligence services had offered to pay rebels to make misleading claims over Ingabire's ties with the group.
Ingabire had pleaded not guilty to all charges before the trial.
More than 800,000 people were killed in 1994 when the Hutu-led government and ethnic militia groups went on a 100-day killing spree, randomly targeting Tutsis and moderate Hutus across the central African country.
jlw/ipj (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)