August 30, 2017 / 11:25 AM / in 3 months

Critic of Rwandan president taken from home by police: brother

KIGALI (Reuters) - The brother of a leading critic of Rwandan President Paul Kagame said on Wednesday she had been taken from her home by police along with four family members, something police denied.

Diane Shima Rwigara, a leading critic of Rwanda's president, speaks to the media in Kigali, Rwanda, June 20, 2017. Picture taken June 20, 2017. REUTERS/Jean Bizimana

Diane Shima Rwigara, who was barred from running against Kagame in elections this month, was driven away by police on Tuesday, Aristide Rwigara said by telephone from the United States.

Rwandan police said earlier on Wednesday they were investigating Diane Rwigara for tax evasion and forgery.

”Police took her and everybody else who was there -- my mother, my other sister, and my two brothers,” her brother said, citing a person who said they witnessed the incident.

“They put everybody in handcuffs and took things in the house indiscriminately. Phones, computers, jewelry, everything,” he said.

Police spokesperson Theos Badege said officers searched the Rwigara family home in the capital Kigali, but he dismissed reports spreading online that she had been arrested.

On Wednesday evening, Badege told Reuters he was “sure they had not been arrested”.

Rwigara, a 35-year-old accountant, has repeatedly accused Kagame of stifling dissent and criticized his Rwandan Patriotic Front’s near total hold on power.

Her brother said he did not know where police had taken his family.

Diane Shima Rwigara, a leading critic of Rwanda's president, presents her papers to Kalisa Mbanda, chairman of the National Election Commission in Kigali, Rwanda, June 20, 2017. Picture taken June 20, 2017. REUTERS/Jean Bizimana

“I fear the worst right now,” he said, referencing the death of their father in a car accident in 2015 that the family has maintained was politically motivated.

“This is not an isolated incident, this all started before my father’s assassination,” he added.

Electoral authorities barred Rwigara from standing in August’s presidential vote, saying she had not submitted enough supporters’ signatures and some of the names she did send in belonged to dead people -- allegations she denied.

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The U.S. State Department and the European Union criticized the decision to disqualify her from the vote, which Kagame went on to win by 98.8 percent. .

The phones of Rwigara and three family members were switched off on Wednesday morning when Reuters called them and no one answered when a Reuters reporter rang the door bell at the home in the morning.

The phones remained off in the evening.

The police spokesman said the allegations of tax evasion were being jointly investigated with the Rwanda Revenue Authority.

Richard Tusabe, the authority’s commissioner general, said the Rwigara family’s tobacco company had not paid taxes “over a period of five years”.

Kagame has won international praise for presiding over a peaceful and rapid economic recovery in Rwanda since the 1994 genocide, when an estimated 800,000 people Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed.

But he has also faced mounting criticism for what human rights groups say are widespread abuses, a muzzling of independent media, and suppression of political opposition.

Reporting by Clement Uwiringiyimana, Additional reporting and writing by Maggie Fick; Editing by Jeremy Gaunt

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