The Man Behind 'Hotel Rwanda' Found Guilty in a Terrorism Case

A court in Rwanda, convicted Paul Rusesabagina, the real-life inspiration behind the movie Hotel Rwanda, on terror-related charges. The court in Kigali, Rwanda found that Rusesabagina was a part of a terror group, MRCD-FLN, CNN reported.

Despite the decision, Rusesabagina maintained that he was denied a fair trial, calling it a “sham,” according to an AP article.

Rusesabagina inspired the movie ‘Hotel Rwanda’

The Rwandan genocide of 1994 provided the setting for Hotel Rwanda. It detailed Rusesabagina and his wife Tatiana’s efforts to save more than 1,000 refugees in the hotel that Rusesabagina managed at the time. 

Don Cheadle played the Russesabagina and Sophie Okonedo played the role of his wife, Tatiana. The movie focused on Russabagina’s courageous endeavor to keep the people of a war-torn country safe and protect his own family as well. 

The movie came out in 2004 to both audience and critical acclaim. It featured in many of the top movies’ lists of the year. It also won several awards including the People’s Choice Award at the 2004 Toronto International Film Festival.

Rusesabagina left the country after the Rwandan Genocide

The movie came out a decade after the incident. But Rusesabagina had already moved to Belgium by then along with his family. He is a Belgian citizen and a U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom awardee as well.

A long-time critic of the Rwandan President Paul Kagame “over alleged human rights abuses,” Russesabgina disappeared during a visit to Dubai last year. After a few days of his disappearance, he was seen with handcuffs in Rwanda. 

The charges against him accused him of supporting the armed wing of his opposition political platform Rwandan Movement for Democratic Change. According to the AP report, the armed group claimed responsibility for the 2018 and 2019 attacks in southern Rwanda which took the lives of nine Rwandans.

Accused under nine charges, Rusesabagina claimed during the hearing that he was a Belgian citizen and was kidnapped by Rwandan authorities, who were out of their jurisdiction.

But the court ruled that the Rwandan authorities only tricked him to board an aircraft. The Rwandan government insisted that he was going through Dubai to meet with armed groups based in Burundi and Congo.

Rusesabagina, per the AP, also accused Rwandan authorities of gagging and torturing him while in custody. His lawyer, Felix Rudakemwa insisted that Rwandan prison authorities confiscated his legal papers and mistreated him.

However, the Rwandan authorities denied all accusations of mistreatment and have asserted that Rusesabagina would get a fair trial.

Russesabagina and his family seek justice

Rusesabagina’s daughter, Carine Kanimba spoke with CNN about her father’s trial. She claimed the violation of her father’s basic human rights by the Rwandan government. 

“We knew there would never be a fair trial for my father, and now the world knows too,” Kanimba said.

Further, she called on Belgian and American authorities to step in to help.

“If the US, Belgium, and others believe in human rights, the need to step in now to free our father.”

In December, 36 U.S. senators wrote to Rwandan President Kagame, requesting him to release Rusesabagina.

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