KIGALI, Rwanda (AP) — The man who inspired the film “Hotel Rwanda” was convicted of terrorism offenses Monday and sentenced to 25 years in prison in a trial that human rights watchdogs and other critics of Rwanda's repressive government have described as an act of retaliation.
What You Need To Know
- The man who inspired the film “Hotel Rwanda” has been convicted of terrorism offenses and sentenced to 25 years in prison
- Human rights watchdogs and other critics of Rwanda’s repressive government have described the trial as an act of retaliation
- Paul Rusesabagina is credited with saving ethnic Tutsis during Rwanda’s 1994 genocide and is a recipient of the U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom
- The U.S. resident and Belgian citizen was convicted on nine charges including the formation of an illegal armed group, membership in a terrorist group, financing a terror group, murder and abduction
“We knew from the day he was kidnapped that the verdict would be ‘guilty’ on some or all of the false charges. We are happy that the charade of the trial is ending,” Rusesabagina’s family said in a statement.
A member of his legal team, Kate Gibson, added that “the only thing that has been surprising in watching this horror show unfold over the last year has been the brazenness and openness with which the Rwandan authorities have been willing to systematically violate all of the fair trial rights to which Paul was entitled.”
Rwanda has said Rusesabagina would get a fair trial.
Throughout, 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 said he was gagged and tortured before he was jailed, but Rwandan authorities denied that. 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.
Rusesabagina is credited with saving more than 1,000 people by sheltering them at the hotel he managed during the genocide in Rwanda in which more than 800,000 Tutsi and Hutus who tried to protect them were killed.