A prominent opponent of Rwandan President Paul Kagame pleaded not guilty to charges of forgery and inciting insurrection and said she was prevented from accessing her case file to chart her defence.
Any legal misstep in the trial of Diane Shima Rwigara could further mar the reputation of the long-ruling Kagame, credited for stabilising and developing Rwanda after its 1994 genocide but accused by rights groups of suppressing dissent.
Rwigara is accused of falsifying registration papers to stand against Kagame in an August election and is the latest dissident to face criminal charges. She was barred from running in the election, which Kagame won with an official 98.8% of the vote.
“I plead not guilty to all charges,” she told the court, adding she had so far had scant access to her lawyer since police arrested her on August 30 on tax evasion allegations related to her family’s tobacco company.
Prosecutors said on Monday they could not disclose details of the charges because the investigation was ongoing.
Rwigara accuses Kagame of stifling dissent and criticised the ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front’s (RPF) tight grip on the country since it fought its way to power to end the east African nation’s genocide.
Her mother Adeline and sister Anne are co-defendants in the trial and say the accusations are politically motivated.
Their attorney, Pierre Celestin Buhuru, said he was not given access to WhatsApp messages and recordings prosecutors presented as evidence.
The family has asked for a return of money they said was confiscated by police during the August raid so they can appoint an additional lawyer.
The trial continues on Friday.
Last month, Rwandan authorities charged another opposition official and eight others with forming an armed group and seeking to overthrow the government.