Kigali, February 8, 2010 (FH) - An opponent to Rwanda's current regime, Joseph Ntawangundi, who returned last month from exile, was arrested Saturday in Kigali and is expected to be transferred to the city's Central prison, Hirondelle Agency gathered from reliable sources.

1 min 24Approximate reading time

Joseph Ntawangundi works as an "assistant" for Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza, the President of the United Democratic Forces (UDF, opposition) who intends to run for her party in the presidential election scheduled for August.

Mrs. Ingabire and Mr. Ntawangundi both returned from exile in January to register their political party, created in exile.

According to Radio Rwanda, Joseph Ntawangundi was arrested on the grounds of a judgment delivered in 2007 by a Ngoma Gacaca court (Eastern province).

The tribunal sentenced him to 19 years in jail for complicity in the 1994 genocide, the radio said.

In a press release posted Monday on the UDF website, Victoire Ingabire claims that her assistant was not present in Rwanda during the genocide.

The website reads: "Joseph Ntawangundi left Rwanda in 1986 for studies in Poland (Wroclaw), returned to Rwanda in 1992 and worked in Kigali (CESTRAL). In 1993, he left Rwanda for ICFTU - AFRO (International Confederation for Free Trade Unions, African Regional Organization, NAIROBI, Kenya) as a Research and Training Officer until 2002.  During the genocide, Mr. Joseph Ntawangundi was attending, on behalf of the ICFTU - AFRO, a 2-month training course in Sweden (GANGNEF) and returned to Kenya".

Victoire Ingabire, who has been critical about Gacaca justice in the past, insists that her assistant is innocent.

"Even if our position about Gacaca [justice] has not changed, we hope that it has not fallen as low as to condemn an innocent who was not even in Rwanda during the genocide, and for crimes committed in a place he has never been to", she argues.

The Gacaca courts, adapted from a form of Rwandan traditional justice, are tasked with trying suspected perpetrators of the 1994 Rwandan genocide which left some 800,000 people dead, according to the UN.   These village courts, whose judges are elected from the community, can hand down sentences up to life imprisonment, which is now the maximum penalty in Rwanda. They have so far tried more than a million people.


© Hirondelle News Agency