Paul Rusesabagina: Hotel Rwanda movie hero found guilty of terrorism charges

A former manager of a luxury hotel who was portrayed as a hero in a Hollywood film about the 1994 Rwandan genocide has been found guilty of being part of a group responsible for terrorist attacks.

Paul Rusesabagina, 67, was arrested last year on arrival from Dubai after what he described as a kidnapping by the Rwandan authorities.

He was portrayed by actor Don Cheadle as the hero of 2004 film Hotel Rwanda and emerged as a prominent critic of President Paul Kagame.

Rusesabagina had denied all the charges against him, while his supporters called the trial a sham and proof of the Kagame regime’s ruthless treatment of opponents.

He was found guilty of the formation of an illegal armed group and membership of a terrorist organisation.

The ruling comes more than a year after he disappeared during a visit to Dubai and then emerged days later in Rwanda in handcuffs, accused of supporting the armed wing of the 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 maintained his innocence, and his family alleges he was kidnapped and taken to Rwanda against his will.

But the court ruled that he was not kidnapped when he was tricked into boarding a chartered flight.

The Belgian citizen and US resident, who was awarded the US Presidential Medal of Freedom, has said his arrest was in response to his criticism of the long-time Rwandan president over alleged human rights abuses.

Judge Beatrice Mukamurenzi said of 20 defendants, including Rusesabagina: “They should be found guilty for being part of this terror group – MRCD-FLN.

“They attacked people in their homes, or even in their cars on the road travelling.”

Prosecutors had sought a life sentence on nine charges, including terrorism, arson, taking hostages and forming an armed rebel group.

Rusesabagina became a global celebrity after the film, which depicted him risking his life to shelter hundreds as the boss of a luxury hotel in the Rwandan capital Kigali.

It covered the 100-day genocide when Hutu ethnic extremists killed more than 800,000 people, mostly from the Tutsi minority.

Cheadle was nominated for an Oscar for his role in the movie, which is listed by the American Film Institute as one of the most inspirational of all time.

Rusesabagina used his fame to highlight what he described as rights violations by the government of Mr Kagame, a Tutsi rebel commander who took power after his forces captured Kigali and halted the genocide.

Rusesabagina’s trial began in February, six months after he arrived in Kigali on the flight from Dubai.

Human Rights Watch said at the time that his arrest amounted to an enforced disappearance, which it called a serious violation of international law.

Last December, 36 US senators wrote to Mr Kagame to urge him to release Rusesabagina.

Source: Read Full Article