Six Rwandan opposition figures were jailed for seven to 12 years after being convicted of forming an illegal armed group and conspiring against government, state radio reported.
The six belonged to the FDU-Inkingi party, formerly led by Victoire Ingabire, an outspoken critic of President Paul Kagame. Gatera Gashabana, lawyer for the six, said they would appeal against their conviction and sentences.
Ingabire served six years of a 15-year prison term on charges of conspiring to form an armed group to undermine government, before being released in 2018. She said the charges were politically motivated.
Human rights groups have long criticised the Rwandan government’s intolerance of dissent under Paul Kagame and mysterious murders and disappearances of opposition critics. Government denied the accusations.
State-run Radio Rwanda said the six newly sentenced to prison included Boniface Twagirimana, a vice president in the FDU-Inkingi, who along with an associate received a 10-year term.
Two other accused were given 12 years while a seven-year sentence was handed out to others. The court in the south of Rwanda acquitted four other defendants.
Prosecutors said the men helped to form a rebel group in neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo with the objective of toppling the government in Rwanda.
Over the years, Rwanda accused various rebel groups operating out of eastern Congo of plotting to destabilise or overthrow Kagame’s government.
Ingabire described the latest convictions as politically motivated as well. “The charges in themselves are political,” she told Reuters. “The current political party in power doesn’t want another strong political party in Rwanda.”
The state minister in the foreign ministry, Olivier Nduhungirehe, said Ingabire’s comments were “nonsense”.
“She is questioning the decisions of our judiciary.” Nduhungirehe said in a WhatsApp message.