KIGALI, Rwanda – Rwandan police arrested the country's most prominent opposition leader Thursday and accused her of forming a terrorist organization, months after she was barred from challenging the president in an election.
Human rights groups have accused the Rwandan government of using terrorist allegations to stifle opposition in the country, where the campaign leading up to the August vote was marred by a series of attacks on outspoken government critics. Rwanda's government has denied any involvement.
Authorities said Victoire Ingabire was implicated during investigations into the activities of a man who was a former commander of a Hutu militia group operating in neighboring Congo.
Vital Uwumuremyi, who was arrested Wednesday, was accused of forming a terrorist organization, Coalition of Democratic Forces. Police claim it is the military wing of Ingabire's political party.
Ingabire returned to Rwanda in January after 16 years to challenge President Paul Kagame but she was barred from contesting the August poll and Kagame was re-elected in a landslide.
Ingabire already faced charges of genocide ideology after she stated publicly that crimes committed during the 1994 Rwandan genocide against Hutu citizens should be investigated.
More than 500,000 Rwandans, mostly ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus, were slaughtered in the genocide. Rwandan President Paul Kagame, an ethnic Tutsi, has tried to downplay the role of ethnicity, and people in the country rarely refer to themselves as Hutu or Tutsi and can face charges for speaking publicly about ethnicity.
Ingabire said in an interview with The Associated Press earlier this year that members of her party had been tortured while in police custody.
"Our country is on the brink of chaos," Ingabire said in June. "The rising tension, nervousness, repression and the shrinking of the political space call for the postponement of the presidential elections. Otherwise the elections masquerade (parade) only the ruling party and its allied groups while excluding the opposition leaders."