American law professor arrested in Rwanda for "minimizing genocide"

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A Minnesota law professor jailed in Rwanda and charged with genocide denial has long been a sharp critic of the central African nation's president and even helped file a lawsuit accusing the one-time rebel leader of sparking the slaughter that erupted there in 1994.

Peter Erlinder, 62, a professor at the William Mitchell College of Law in St. Paul with a history of taking on unpopular causes, was arrested Friday, about a week after going to Rwanda to help with the legal defense of Victoire Ingabire, an opposition leader running against President Paul Kagame in Aug. 9 elections. Ingabire is accused of promoting genocidal ideology.

Erlinder is accused of violating Rwanda's laws against minimizing the genocide in which more than 500,000 Rwandans, the vast majority of them ethnic Tutsis, were massacred by Hutus in 100 days. Erlinder doesn't deny massive violence happened but contends it's inaccurate to blame just one side.

He leads a group of defense lawyers at the U.N.'s International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. The tribunal is trying alleged masterminds of the genocide, which stopped after Kagame's mostly Tutsi rebels defeated the Hutu-led government.

"Peter is a tenacious and vigorous advocate, to say the least, so when he is assigned to take on the responsibility of defending someone on a serious criminal case he's going to give that person the very best defense he can," said Eric Janus, the dean at William Mitchell. "And for Peter that means digging into the historical record."...

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