Over one and a half years after her arrest, this Friday at 11 AM local time, Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza expects to hear her verdict. On the eve of this long-awaited Rwandan Supreme Court case pronouncement, RNW tests the waters in Kigali.
Rwandan prosecutors are demanding a life-long sentence for the country's jailed opposition leader. She is accused of terrorism, divisionism and having a 'genocidal ideology'.
The politician, who was barred from running for Rwandan president in the 2010 elections, is also accused of having links with the FDLR rebel movement in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. Many FDLR members participated in Rwanda's 1994 genocide. In December, Rwandan President Paul Kagame told RNW that "more than enough" evidence us available to prove Ingabire's links to the FDLR.
Ingabire's case is being closely followed in the Netherlands, where she was exiled for 16 years before her return to Rwanda. Dutch Ambassador to Rwanda Frans Makken has visited her twice in jail.
But, according to her aide and friend Alice Muhirwa, Ingabire is in good physical and emotional health and is convinced she hasn't done anything wrong.
"A normal person might have gotten a breakdown considering all the things Victoire went through, but not her. She has always kept her moral strength while serving her time in jail," says Muhirwa. "That has inspired me a lot."
Muhirwa was working as a businesswoman when she became interested in politics in 2009. She currently serves as the treasurer of the - still unregistered - opposition party FDU-Inkingi. "I decided to quit my job and joined Victoire's struggle. After she came back from exile in January 2010, we immediately became friends," she recalls. "She is such a friendly person."
Ingabire is kept in her own small apartment on the compound of Kigali's central prison. Muhirwa has been bringing in food deliveries, for fear that her friend might otherwise be poisoned.
"Ever since her arrest, I have been visiting Victoire in jail," Muhirwa says. "Every day. She is treated different from a regular prisoner. They keep her separate and she is guarded not by normal prison wardens, but by men from the intelligence services."
"There is no evidence against Victoire, the government should let her go," says Muhirwa. "Victoire has been visited several times by government officials, who tried to negotiate with her. But she remains confident she has done nothing wrong and will therefore not ask the president for forgiveness or a presidential pardon."
Ingabire can receive other guests, too. "On Friday, she is allowed to receive five visitors, but they only get a couple of minutes to spend with her," explains Muhirwa.
To be continued?
Officials from Rwanda's prosecution office did not wish to share their thoughts about Friday's anticipated turn of events.
The verdict will be read out in Kinyarwanda, the local language, since Ingabire is boycotting her own trial, citing foul play. Her British lawyer has also opted to stay away.
Regardless, the prosecution as well as Ingabire and her defence team have the option to appeal the Supreme Court's decision.
Legal experts say there is even a possibility that the judges won't be ready to read their ruling. Currently underway is a separate Supreme Court case challenging the very law on 'genocidal ideology' being used to prosecute Ingabire. So Friday's verdict may not be the end of the road.