The man who inspired the film “Hotel Rwanda” and the recipient of the U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom Paul Rusesabagina, has been sentenced to 25 years after being tricked into visiting Dubai in the United Arab Emirates last year where he was arrested. He was found guilty of terror where he was convicted on eight charges including membership in a terrorist group, murder and abduction along with 20 other people.
Rusesabagina was convicted by a high court in Kigali of forming a rebel group blamed for deadly gun, grenade and arson attacks in Rwanda in 2018 and 2019.
His family alleges he was kidnapped and taken to Rwanda against his will to stand trial. But the court ruled that he wasn’t kidnapped when he was tricked into boarding a chartered flight.
Back in 1994, Rusesabagina, who is now 67 years old, saved more than 1,000 people by sheltering them at the hotel he managed during the time of genocide in Rwanda where more than 800,000 Tutsi and Hutus who tried to protect them were killed.
Before being jailed, Rusesabagina said he was gagged and tortured but Rwandan authorities denied those allegations. His attorney, Felix Rudakemwa, has stated that Rusesabagina’s legal papers were also confiscated by prison authorities. His family has feared he might die from poor health behind bars.
Some people of Rwanda’s repressive government have described it as an act of retaliation.
Rusesabagina testified at trial that he helped to form the armed group to help refugees but said he never supported violence. Rusesabagina has maintained that he is not guilty of the charges against him but said he didn’t expect to get justice.
“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.
U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price said “the reported lack of fair trial guarantees calls into question the fairness of the verdict,” and he urged Rwanda’s government to examine ”shortcomings” in the case, including Rusesabagina’s reported lack of confidential, unimpeded access to his lawyers and case documents.