Paul Rusesabagina (67), a former hotel manager celebrated for his bravery in saving lives during the 1994 Rwandan Genocide, has been convicted for 25 years in prison over terrorism charges.
The 67-year-old, portrayed as a hero in a Hollywood film about the 1994 genocide, “Hotel Rwanda”, was convicted of eight charges, which include “being a member of a terror group and participating in terror activities”.
Prosecutors had sought a life sentence for Rusesabagina on nine charges, including terrorism, arson, taking hostages and forming an armed rebel group.
Rusesabagina, a vocal critic of President Paul Kagame, termed his arrest and conviction as a political witchhunt. He acknowledged having a leadership role in the Rwanda Movement for Democratic Change (MRCD), a group opposed to Kagame’s rule but denied responsibility for violence carried out by its armed wing, the National Liberation Front (FLN).
The judges said the two groups were indistinguishable.
the former director of the Hotel des Mille Collines in Kigali whose story inspired the 2004 film “Hotel Rwanda”, is a Hutu who helped rescue more than 1,000 people during the 1994 genocide that left 800,000 dead, mostly Tutsis.
The film Hotel Rwanda, released in 2004, recounts Paul Rusesabagina’s bravery. He is Portrayed on-screen by Don Cheadle.
Following the release of the film, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in the United States.
Rusesabagina went into exile for about 25 years and only reappeared in Rwanda in August 2020. He left the country in 1996 with his wife and children for Belgium and the United States. He accuses the Rwandan government of having abducted him.
Rusesabagina’s daughter, Carine Kanimba, has appealed to the government of Belgium to intervene over what she terms as an ‘unfair’ trial on her father.
Frankly, there are days when I cry a lot, I can’t sleep, I don’t eat at all, just knowing that my father is sitting in a room with no windows, no light and no one to talk to, no one he can trust in this country. Because if they said something, if someone sided with him or defended him in Rwanda, it would mean opposing the President, opposing the dictator, which is impossible in this country. So we know that he is all alone there”, Kanimba said.
“What he risks is not only life imprisonment but also death. We know that Paul Kagame has no problem killing his political opponents, his critics, and even human rights activists and journalists who dare to say something”, his daughter said.