Rwanda: Former Presidential Candidate Diane Rwigara and Mother Adeline Walk Free

Diane Rwigara, a critic of Rwanda's President

The Rwandan ministry of justice said it respected the verdict and would "carefully study its implications", though it added: "We condemn all attempts by external actors to inappropriately influence judicial processes in Rwanda".

It also ruled that although the documents presented to the national electoral commission had indications of forged signatures, it was upon the prosecution to prove that she personally meant to forge the signatures, which it did not.

Activists Diane Rwigara and her mother Adeline have been acquitted of all charges brought against them.

"All charges. have been dropped. The court finds that the prosecution charges were baseless", said presiding judge Xavier Ndahayo.

Victoire and DianeDiane Rwigara is the daughter of a businessman and pivotal member of the ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front, Assinapol Rwigara.

The courtroom, packed with diplomats and supporters, erupted in applause as Diane Rwigara and her mother were overcome with tears.

"I will continue my campaign to fight for the rights of all Rwandans", a surprised but happy Rwigara told reporters after celebrating.

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The legal woes for both women started after they expressed interest in Kagame's job and Ingabire has been attending Rwigara's trial, although she was not present on Thursday.

They also ruled freedom of speech protected the Whatsapp voice notes Adeline Rwigara privately sent to relatives accusing the state of ruling through fear.

Rwigara remained defiant despite facing a 22-year jail sentence and maintain she will vociferously champion human rights being trampled by Kagame. She - just like Ms Rwigara - had meant to run for president against Paul Kagame, back in 2010.

Amnesty International welcomed the court's decision.

"We call on the Rwandan authorities to build on this judgement and work towards developing greater tolerance and acceptance of alternative and critical views".

Kagame has been Rwanda's de facto leader since 1994 when his rebel forces invaded and stopped the genocide that killed at least 800,000 mostly ethnic Tutsis and seized power. Rwanda changed its constitution in 2015 to enable Kagame, who became president in 2000, to seek a third term.

Rwanda regularly comes under fire from rights groups for curbs on freedom of expression, extrajudicial killings and lack of political freedom.

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