3 June 2010

Rwanda: Police Foil Erlinder Suicide Attempt

Kigali — Embattled American lawyer, Peter Erlinder, tried to commit suicide in his cell by dissolving over 50 tablets in water and drinking the concoction, but was lucky that police intervened in time, it was revealed yesterday.

Erlinder was still in hospital by press time, recovering from the cocktail of drugs for controlling high blood pressure and depression.

The lawyer was arrested last week and charged with Genocide Denial.

"He was supposed to undergo further interrogation by the prosecution in the morning. They found that he had taken a concoction of drugs and he needed emergency medical attention," Kayiranga said.

According to the Director of the National Police Hospital at Kacyiru, Dr. Daniel Nyamaswa, Erlinder had a list of prescription drugs which included anti-depressants and drugs to cut down high cholesterol levels.

"As you know, the previous day we had taken him to hospital after he complained of heart problems and high blood pressure as well as a history of depression. He told us that he had an artificial valve in his heart though doctors found none.

"I have also taken time to talk to him about his illnesses and most of them are mild and not very life threatening. However, what happened this morning (yesterday) was very strange," Nyamaswa said.

According to the doctor, he held an intimate discussion with Erlinder who told him that the suicide attempt was triggered by fear of possibly being jailed for many years.

"He said he took between 45 and 50 pills, indeed these drugs could have threatened his life, but doctors intervened in time and his condition is improving.

"We checked his kidneys, heart, liver and blood to ascertain whether there were high levels of intoxication but we found no cause for alarm," Nyamaswa said.

Erlinder underwent immediate counselling where he expressed his fears of serving time, and he said he would rather choose death than a life sentence, police officials said.

According to the doctor, Erlinder is in a 'remorse state'. He told the prosecution that he is ready to retract his statements in writing and never return to Rwanda.

"He told us he understands the gravity of his case and has been cooperative. We even showed him the law on genocide denial and he said he already had the law. He knows he will appear in court to answer charges," said Tony Kuramba, the head of Interpol liaison office in Rwanda, who was part of the investigations.

Kayiranga could not reveal whether they would charge the lawyer with attempted suicide, a criminal offence in the country, saying that it would be determined after he is discharged from hospital. Erlinder is currently admitted at King Faisal Hospital in Kigali.

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