Lawyer in Rwanda wanted more US help

Peter Erlinder’s views conflict with Rwanda’s rules on genocide. Peter Erlinder’s views conflict with Rwanda’s rules on genocide. (Sayyid Azim/ Associated Press)
Associated Press / June 21, 2010

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NAIROBI — A US lawyer released from a Rwanda prison on medical grounds credited Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton with his release but said yesterday the US Embassy did not help him secure food or medicine while in prison.

Peter Erlinder, 62, said he had to sleep on a concrete floor without a blanket and without assistance from the embassy after his May 28 arrest in Kigali, Rwanda’s capital. The Minnesota law professor thanked Clinton for saying Rwanda shouldn’t arrest lawyers but said embassy officials in Kigali and Nairobi have not helped much. Erlinder has not been charged, but Rwandan authorities detained him on suspicion of what it calls minimizing the country’s genocide.

“My government insisted that I take my medications from my captors rather than bringing me medications directly,’’ Erlinder told a news conference in Nairobi. He added that it wasn’t clear to him that “my own embassy was working in my interests.’’

A Rwandan judge ruled Thursday that Erlinder, a lawyer at the International Criminal Tribunal of Rwanda, should be freed on medical grounds. Erlinder said he would soon go to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. He did not explain his health problems and declined to comment on his statements in a Rwandan court that he had attempted suicide in prison.

Rwanda’s top prosecutor said that he would continue his investigation of Erlinder, who said yesterday he would return to Rwanda to face charges if called by the court to do so. Rwanda has laws against minimizing the 1994 genocide in which hundreds of thousands of Rwandans, the vast majority of them ethnic Tutsis, were massacred by extremist Hutus.

Erlinder said yesterday that there may be enough evidence to show that more ethnic Hutus died than Tutsis. top stories on Twitter

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