Popular Rwandan Musician Sentenced to 10 Years for Anti-Govt. Plot
A Rwandan court on Friday sentenced popular musician Kizito Mihigo to 10 years in prison for conspiracy against the government of strongman President Paul Kagame.
Mihigo was also found guilty of "forming a criminal group" and "conspiracy to commit murder," but judge Claire Bukuba threw out charges of complicity in a terrorist act.
Mihigo, 35, who pleaded guilty to the charges, is a survivor of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.
Prosecutors said he was "in charge of mobilizing the youth" for the Rwanda National Congress (RNC), an opposition party in exile, as well as the FDLR, Rwandan Hutu rebels who include the perpetrators of the genocide in their ranks and who are based in the forests of neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo.
Mihigo's lawyers, who said prosecutors had little hard evidence, had pressured him to plead not guilty.
He was tried alongside journalist Cassien Ntamuhanga, demobilized soldier Jean Paul Dukuzumuremyi and Agnes Niyibizi, who was accused but found innocent of having been an RNC treasurer.
Ntamuhanga was sentenced to 25 years in jail, Dukuzumuremyi was sentenced to 30 years. Both have denied all charges.
Niyibizi was acquitted on all charges.
Police said the men planned attacks in revenge for the assassination of a former spy chief and fierce critic of Kagame, Patrick Karegeya, who lived in exile in South Africa and who was found strangled to death in a Johannesburg luxury hotel on New Year's Day.
The arrest of the four in April, came as Rwanda held commemorations to mark the 20th anniversary of the genocide, the murder of 800,000 people, most of them ethnic Tutsis, at the hands of Hutu extremists.
But it also came amid mounting criticism of Kagame and accusations his government is cracking down on those who speak out.