Africa

Rwanda: US genocide lawyer denied bail

Peter Erlinder in court in Rwanda on 7 June 2010
Image caption Peter Erlinder is the lead defence counsel for top genocide suspects

A judge in Rwanda has refused bail to a US lawyer charged with denying the 1994 genocide and publishing articles threatening Rwanda's security.

Peter Erlinder arrived in Rwanda last month to help defend opposition leader Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza on charges of promoting genocide ideology.

The US has called on the Rwandan authorities to release Mr Erlinder, who has denied all the charges.

The genocide claimed the lives of about 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus.

Mr Erlinder is the lead defence counsel for top genocide suspects at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) in Arusha, Tanzania.

After the bail hearing, Rwanda's justice minister said the prosecution was not a "political tactic".

"It is an act of justice," Foreign Affairs Minister Louise Mushikiwabo said in a statement.

"The Rwandan government takes no pleasure from Mr Erlinder's plight, but this needs to be understood: flagrant and orchestrated breaches of our genocide ideology laws will be met with the full force of the law."

Ms Ingabire, an ethnic Hutu, was arrested for allegedly propagating genocide ideology after she called for action to be taken against those responsible for killing Hutus during the 1994 conflict.

She was freed on bail but her passport was seized and she was banned from leaving the capital, Kigali. She could be sentenced to more than two decades in prison if convicted.

Rwanda's Tutsi-dominated government came to power at the end of the genocide.

It has been accused of harassing the opposition ahead of elections due in August.

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