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Rwanda4 March 2003

Editor of independent paper freed after more than a month

Reporters Without Borders called on the Rwandan government today to return the passport of Ismael Mbonigaba, editor of the newspaper Umuseso, who was conditionally freed on prison on 27 February after more than a month in detention for allegedly "inciting people to be divisive and practice discrimination." It also demanded that he be allowed to travel outside the capital, Kigali.

He was freed a few hours after prosecutor-general Gilbert Sebihogo ruled that his arrest and imprisonment were illegal. However he cannot leave Kigali without Sebihogo’s permission.

Reporters Without Borders had called for his release and noted that the May 2002 press law banned preventive detention of journalists except for specific reasons, which did not include incitement to be divisive.

Mbonigaba was arrested on 22 January after his paper reported on 13 January that former prime minister Faustin Twagiramungu would stand against President Paul Kagame at the next presidential election.

The article was accompanied by a cartoon of Kagame as King Solomon holding the hand of a baby representing the Democratic Republican Movement (MDR, a member of the government coalition), with a sword in his other hand. Two other people were shown pestering him about how to handle the MDR. The cartoon suggested he was the arbiter of the party’s divisions and that he alone could decide its future.

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