Man who inspired film “Hotel Rwanda,” saving hundreds from genocide, convicted of terrorism in trial human rights watchdogs called act of retaliation.
The man who inspired the film “Hotel Rwanda” for saving hundreds of his countrymen from genocide was convicted of terrorism offenses Monday and sentenced to 25 years at a trial that human rights watchdogs and other critics of Rwanda’s repressive government have described as an act of retaliation.
Paul Rusesabagina, credited with sheltering ethnic Tutsis during Rwanda’s 1994 genocide and a recipient of the U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom, boycotted the announcement of the verdict after calling the trial a “sham.”
The U.S. resident and Belgian citizen was convicted on eight charges including membership in a terrorist group, murder and abduction. He was charged along with 20 other people.
The circumstances surrounding Rusesabagina’s arrest last year, his limited access to an independent legal team and his reported worsening health have drawn international concern for the 67-year-old who left Rwanda in 1996.
Rusesabagina, who remains in custody, has asserted that his arrest was in response to his criticism of longtime Rwandan President Paul Kagame over alleged human rights abuses. Kagame’s government has repeatedly denied targeting dissenting voices with arrests and extrajudicial killings.
Monday’s ruling comes more than a year after Rusesabagina disappeared during a visit to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, and appeared days later in Rwanda in handcuffs, accused of supporting the armed wing of his opposition political platform, the Rwandan Movement for Democratic Change.
The armed group claimed some responsibility for attacks in 2018 and 2019 in southern Rwanda in which nine Rwandans died. Rusesabagina testified at trial that he helped to form the armed group to help refugees but said he never supported violence — and sought to distance himself from its deadly attacks.
Throughout, Rusesabagina has maintained that he is not guilty of the charges against him but said he didn’t expect to get justice.
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