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William Mitchell law school supports faculty member Peter Erlinder, under arrest for defense work in Rwanda

C. Peter Erlinder
C. Peter Erlinder

Eric Janus, dean of the William Mitchell College of Law, issued a statement this afternoon supporting Professor Peter Erlinder, who was arrested in Rwanda while representing an opposition political leader.

Janus, noting that the school learned of the faculty member's arrest today, said: “At this time, he has not been charged with any crime. Our primary concern is for Prof. Erlinder’s safety, and we hope the situation is resolved both fairly and promptly.”

William Mitchell, he said, is working with the State Department, the U.S. Embassy in Rwanda and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda to “monitor the situation and provide any assistance possible. In addition, we are in contact with representatives from the offices of Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Rep. Betty McCollum and Rep. Keith Ellison to make them aware of the situation and provide information about Prof. Erlinder’s work in Rwanda.”

Erlinder has been in Rwanda to represent Victoire Ingabire, an opposition candidate for president who was arrested over accusations of promoting genocide ideology, Janus said.

“William Mitchell has a 110-year history of legal education that is engaged with the legal profession, and we support and encourage the legal pursuits of our faculty beyond the college,” he said.

“In traveling to Rwanda, Prof. Erlinder exemplifies the great tradition of lawyers who take on the representation of unpopular clients and causes. That Prof. Erlinder did so at great personal risk demonstrates the strength of his commitment to justice and due process. We support his commitment to justice, the rule of law, and public service, which are the core of the lawyer’s function in society and values Prof. Erlinder works to instill in the students he teaches at William Mitchell.”

He said the the college “will continue to monitor his situation and work with the United Nations and the United States government until the issue is resolved.”

The National Lawyers Guild, of which Erlinder is past president, also issued a statement.

“There can be no justice for anyone if the state can silence lawyers for defendants whom it dislikes and a government that seeks to prevent lawyers from being vigorous advocates for their clients cannot be trusted.  The entire National Lawyers Guild is honored by his membership and his courageous advocacy," said David Gespass, the Guild's president.

Here’s a bio of Erlinder and more about him.

 (Jay Weiner’s wife, Ann Juergens, teaches at William Mitchell College of Law.)

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