Rwanda: US genocide lawyer 'attempted suicide'

Image caption, Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza had enlisted Peter Erlinder's help

A US lawyer arrested on allegations of genocide denial tried to commit suicide in his cell, Rwandan officials said.

Peter Erlinder arrived in Rwanda last week to help defend opposition leader Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza, who has been charged with promoting genocide ideology last month.

Police spokesman Eric Kayiranga said Mr Erlinder has "admitted" that he tried to kill himself.

His daughter told the BBC shes does not believe he would try to take his life.

Rwanda's 1994 genocide claimed the lives of about 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus.


According to the spokesman, Mr Erlinder swallowed a cocktail of drugs after realising the "gravity of the charges against him".

Mr Erlinder's daughter told the BBC that her father was not the type of person who would consider committing suicide.

"We are now concerned that this is really laying the groundwork for something else to happen to him and for it to be blamed on suicide," Sarah Erlinder said.

Earlier the US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson had accused the Kigali government of restricting freedom ahead of the 9 August presidential election, in which Ms Ingabire wanted to be a challenger.

Mr Erlinder is the lead defence counsel for top genocide suspects at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in Arusha, Tanzania.

He had been planning to help Ms Ingabire's defence team but chief prosecutor Martin Ngoga said he had been arrested for remarks made in publications and statements.

The Rwandan opposition leader, an ethnic Hutu, was arrested for allegedly propagating genocide ideology after she called for action to be taken against those responsible for killing Hutus during the 1994 conflict.

She was freed on bail but her passport was seized and she was banned from leaving the capital, Kigali. She could be sentenced to more than two decades in prison if convicted.

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