Law professor who grew up on South Side jailed in Rwanda Peter Erlinder went to Rwanda to help opposition candidate
An attorney who grew up on Chicago's South Side and helped run his father's manufacturing company in the city before receiving a law degree has been arrested in Rwanda for allegedly denying genocide.
Now his family is working with lawmakers stateside and abroad to secure his release.
Peter Erlinder, 62, a law professor at William Mitchell College of Law in St. Paul, Minn., traveled to Rwanda on May 23 to help defend opposition presidential candidate Victoire Ingabire against charges of promoting genocidal ideology, his daughter, Sarah, said.
An estimated 800,000 people were killed during the 1994 Rwandan genocide. Ingabire aims to unseat Rwandan President Paul Kagame in the Aug. 9 elections.
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Erlinder was arrested Friday at his hotel in Rwanda's capital, Kigali, his daughter said. She said she hasn't been able to speak to her father.
A local Rwandan attorney and a U.S. attorney were able to see Erlinder on Saturday, but they were denied access Sunday and told to pay up if they wanted Erlinder to continue to eat in jail, Sarah Erlinder said.
"I think that this actually has very little to do with 1994 and the genocide and much more to do with representing unpopular opinions and people, opinions that are outside of the official government line," said Sarah Erlinder, 29, a University of Wisconsin law school graduate who lives in Flagstaff, Ariz.
Peter Erlinder started working for the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in 2003, his daughter said. He also runs the Web site for the Rwanda Documents Project, where he publishes articles and commentaries critical of the Kagame government.
Erlinder grew up in Chicago's Brainerd neighborhood, the eldest of two boys, his brother, Scott, said. Their father owned Erlinder Manufacturing in Roseland, and their mother was the bookkeeper.
He graduated from Calumet High School and received a bachelor's degree from Bradley University, Scott Erlinder said. Erlinder attended Georgetown University Law School for about two years until his father died, then came home to Chicago for about three years to run the family business until it closed, his brother said. Erlinder went back to law school and graduated from Chicago-Kent College of Law.
In the late 1970s, Erlinder was a teaching fellow and lecturer at the University of Chicago and clerked for the Illinois attorney general in the general law division, according to his resume.
"We feel the best thing to do is if Peter can't defend himself, then putting pressure from the outside is the best way to stop the Rwandan government from doing anything," said Scott Erlinder.
Africa Great Lakes Democracy Watch
Welcome to Africa Great Lakes Democracy Watch Blog. Our objective is to promote the institutions of democracy,social justice,Human Rights,Peace, Freedom of Expression, and Respect to humanity in Rwanda,Uganda,DR Congo, Burundi,Sudan, Tanzania, Kenya,Ethiopia, and Somalia. We strongly believe that Africa will develop if only our presidents stop being rulers of men and become leaders of citizens. We support Breaking the Silence Campaign for DR Congo since we believe the democracy in Rwanda means peace in DRC. Follow this link to learn more about the origin of the war in both Rwanda and DR Congo:http://www.rwandadocumentsproject.net/gsdl/cgi-bin/library