Lawyer and law professor Peter Erlinder, charged with genocide denial in Rwanda, has been denied bail. The facts are hard to determine, but it appears that his alleged crime is simply the act of advocacy on behalf of persons accused. The news article relates that Erlinder's health issues are being exacerbated in jail.
Erlinder was hospitalized last Tuesday. Rwandan police said Erlinder had tried to commit suicide but his family denied this.
On Friday, June 4 Erlinder pleaded not guilty to the charges during his first court appearance since the arrest. Appearing weak in court, Erlinder had asked to be granted bail so he could return home for treatment, and promised to comply with any conditions the court sets.
Erlinder was in Kigali helping with the legal defense of an opposition leader who wants to run for president in Aug. 9 elections.
Erlinder — a professor at William Mitchell College of Law in St. Paul, Minnesota — has a reputation for taking on difficult, often unpopular defendants and causes. A past president of the progressive National Lawyers Guild, Erlinder leads a group of defense lawyers at the U.N.'s International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, which is trying the alleged leaders of the 1994 genocide.
Erlinder is accused of violating Rwanda's laws against minimizing the genocide in which more than 500,000 Rwandans, the vast majority of them ethnic Tutsis, were massacred by Hutus in 100 days. He doesn't deny massive violence happened but contends it's inaccurate to blame just one side.
The massacres ended when mostly Tutsi rebels led by President Paul Kagame defeated the mostly Hutu extremist perpetrators.
Read more here.