Monday, 29 November, 2021
E-paper

Hotel Rwanda hero Paul Rusesabagina convicted on terror charges

A man who was portrayed in a film as a life-saving hero during the Rwandan genocide has been convicted of terrorism by a court in Rwanda.

Paul Rusesabagina, 67, was found guilty of backing a rebel group from exile which killed nine civilians in 2018.

His family have alleged that he was taken to Rwanda by force. They have also said he did not have a fair trial.

Rusesabagina's journey from celebrated figure to state enemy happened as his criticism of the government grew.

In a period of 100 days from April 1994, 800,000 people, mostly from the Tutsi ethnic group, were slaughtered.

In the Oscar-nominated movie Hotel Rwanda, Rusesabagina, played by Don Cheadle, was shown how as hotel manager he managed to protect more than 1,000 people who had sought shelter.

Some survivors have gone on to question this version of events.

But as Rusesabagina's profile was raised following the release of the film in 2005, his criticism of the post-genocide government and President Paul Kagame gained a wider audience.

He spoke about human rights abuses and alleged that the government was targeting Hutus.

Living in exile, Rusesabagina went on to lead an opposition coalition, which had an armed wing - the National Liberation Front (FLN).

In a 2018 video message, he called for regime change saying that "the time has come for us to use any means possible to bring about change in Rwanda".

The FLN was accused of carrying out attacks in 2018 in which the authorities said nine people were killed. But Rusesabagina said he never asked anyone to target civilians.
Rusesabagina's family have said that he was kidnapped and forcibly taken to Rwanda last year.

But in court, one witness spoke about how he had tricked Rusesabagina onto a plane in Dubai by telling him it was flying to neighbouring Burundi.

He withdrew from the trial in March this year, shortly after it began, saying that he was not being given a fair hearing.

His daughter, Carine Kanimba, told the BBC's Newsday programme that he did not have proper access to his lawyers and that the president was "the only judge in the court".

Twenty others were tried alongside Rusesabagina, some of whom were members of the FLN who implicated him in their evidence.

The prosecution has asked for a life sentence for Rusesabagina.