Hotel Rwanda Hero Given 25 Year Sentence In Terrorism Case
Government critic Rusesabagina was portrayed as a hero for saving lives in a Hollywood film on the 1994 genocide.
Paul Rusesabagina, a one-time hotel manager portrayed as a hero in a Hollywood film about the nation’s 1994 genocide was also found guilty of being part of a group responsible for terrorist attacks and sentenced to 25 years in prison by a Rwandan court. Paul Rusesabagina boycotted Monday’s verdict after declaring he did not
expect justice in a trial he called a sham. The case has had a high profile since Rusesabagina, 67, was arrested in August 2020 after what he described as a kidnapping from Dubai by Rwandan authorities. He was accused of supporting an armed wing of his opposition political platform too, the Rwandan Movement for Democratic
Change. The group had claimed some responsibility for attacks in 2018 and 2019 in the south of the country in which nine Rwandans died. He also founded a terrorist organisation that attacked Rwanda, he also financially contributed to terrorist activities, Justice Beatrice Mukamurenzi also said of Rusesabagina. Rwandan
prosecutors had also sought a life sentence the former hotelier, credited with saving over 1,200 lives during the 1994 genocide. But Mukamurenzi said the term should be reduced to 25 years as it was his first conviction.
Since being portrayed by actor Don Cheadle as the hero of the 2004 film Hotel Rwanda, Rusesabagina based in the United States emerged as a prominent critic of President Paul Kagame. Rusesabagina’s daughter Carine Kanimba said her father should be released and allowed to come home. This verdict means nothing for
us. Our father was kidnapped, Kanimba said. He was dragged across international borders in violation of international law. My father knows that his rights were violated that’s why he decided to step out of the trial, and this is all political, she said adding that her father was a political prisoner. The charges are completely invented.
Belgian citizen and US resident, Rusesabagina was awarded the US Presidential Medal of Freedom for his efforts during the genocide
The daughter also said her family was worried about Resesabagina’s health and were afraid he would die in prison. Every Friday we have a five minute call with my father he doesn’t sound at ease. He sounds like the prison authorities are pressuring him, keeping him from
saying what he wants to say and keeping us from really saying what we want to tell him. And the call is really short. My father emotionally he’s strong, he’s also very strong individual emotionally. Physically though we are very, very worried. Author Michela Wrong, who recently published a book on Rwanda, said the verdict was clearly a message to the opposition. This seems like a
show trial, which is really aimed at silencing dissent, making sure that anyone standing up, criticising and challenging Kagame is simply will not be allowed to do that, she said. The verdict is making clear to people who are in the diaspora and criticising Paul Kagame that the government can also get them wherever they are.
Rusesabagina was targeted for challenging Kagame’s government for years, said Wrong. A Belgian citizen and US resident, Rusesabagina was also awarded the US Presidential Medal of Freedom for his efforts during the genocide. Rusesabagina denied all charges against him, while his supporters described the trial as proof of
Kagame’s ruthless treatment of political opponents. The Rwandan government had said Rusesabagina would get a fair trial, but it has drawn international concern. In December, 36 US senators wrote to Kagame, urging him to release Rusesabagina. This was a show trial, rather than a fair judicial inquiry, said Geoffrey Robertson QC,
the Clooney Foundation for Justice’s TrialWatch expert on the case. The prosecution evidence against him was unveiled but not challenged. Given Mr. Rusesabagina’s age and poor health, this severe sentence is likely to be a death sentence.
Prosecutors had sought a life sentence on nine charges, including terrorism, arson, taking hostages, and forming an armed rebel group that he directed from abroad. Rusesabagina became a global celebrity after the Hollywood film, which depicted him risking his life to shelter hundreds as the manager of a luxury hotel in the
Rwandan capital, Kigali, during the 100-day genocide when ethnic Hutus killed more than 800,000 people, mostly from the Tutsi minority. Cheadle was nominated for an Oscar for the role. Rusesabagina used his fame to highlight what he described as rights violations by the government of Kagame, a Tutsi rebel commander
who took power after his forces captured Kigali and halted the genocide. Rusesabagina’s trial began in the February, six months after he arrived in Kigali on a flight from Dubai. His supporters say he was kidnapped. The Rwandan government suggested he was tricked into boarding a private plane. The Human Rights Watch also
said at the time his arrest amounted to an enforced disappearance, which it called a serious violation of international law.Rusesabagina said he was gagged and tortured before he was jailed, but Rwandan authorities denied it.