Man who inspired 'Hotel Rwanda' convicted of terror charges

September 21, 2021

KIGALI, Rwanda (AP) — A court in Rwanda says the man who inspired “Hotel Rwanda,” Paul Rusesabagina, has been found guilty of terror-related offenses.

Rusesabagina boycotted Monday’s announcement after declaring he didn’t expect justice in a trial he called a “sham.” 

He has so far been convicted of the formation of an illegal armed group, membership in a terrorist group and financing a terror group. The verdict is still being read out on charges of murder, abduction, and armed robbery as an act of terrorism. He was charged along with 20 other people.

The ruling comes more than a year after Rusesabagina disappeared during a visit to Dubai, United Arab Emiratets, and appeared days later in Rwanda in handcuffs, accused of supporting the armed wing of his opposition political platform, 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.

Rusesabagina has maintained his innocence, and his family alleges he was kidnapped and taken to Rwanda against his will. But the court ruled that he wasn't kidnapped when he was tricked into boarding a chartered flight. Rwanda’s government has asserted that he was going to Burundi to coordinate with armed groups based there and in Congo.

Rusesabagina is credited with saving more than 1,000 people by sheltering them at the hotel he managed during the 1994 genocide in Rwanda in which more than 800,000 Tutsi and Hutus who tried to protect them were killed. 

Rusesabagina, a Belgian citizen and U.S. resident who was awarded the U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom, has asserted that his arrest was in response to his criticism of longtime Rwandan President Paul Kagame over alleged human rights abuses. 

Rusesabagina said he was gagged and tortured before he was jailed, but Rwandan authorities denied it.

His attorney, Felix Rudakemwa, has asserted that Rusesabagina’s legal papers were confiscated by prison authorities. HIs family has feared he might die from poor health behind bars.

Rwanda has said Rusesabagina would get a fair trial.

But the trial has drawn international concern. In December, 36 U.S. senators wrote to Kagame, urging him to release Rusesabagina.

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