Activists demand the release of “Hotel Rwanda” hero Rusesabagina

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Kampala, Uganda – Human rights activists and others are urging Rwandan authorities to release the man who inspired the movie “Hotel Rwanda” and say his health has deteriorated after an appeals court sentenced him to 25 years in prison for terrorism.

Paul Rusabagina, who holds Belgian citizenship and resides in the United States, was granted asylum by a Tutsi ethnic group during the 1994 Rwandan genocide. In September he was convicted of belonging to a terrorist organization, murder and kidnapping.

Rusabagina is a well-known critic of Rwandan President Paul Kagame and lived in exile in the United States.

Speaking in support of Russebagina at an online event Wednesday, activists said the United States could do more to free the 67-year-old Presidential Medal of Freedom winner. They also appealed to the Rwandan authorities.

Addressing the Rwandan leader, Fr Chidl said: “I ask President Kagame to hand over the grace he showed me and my family to Paul and his family.” “Please let yourself be guided by mercy”.

Chidley, who played Rusabagina in the 2004 Hollywood film, said the former hotel manager was “earning more meat” after serving months in prison.

Russabagina is responsible for rescuing over 1,000 people by hosting them in a hotel during the Holocaust, when more than 800,000 Tutsis and Hutus were killed trying to protect themselves.

He left Rwanda in 1996.

The criminal case against Russebagina has attracted international attention due to its high authority, the conditions of its detention in 2020 and its limited access to an independent legal team. During the trial, Rusabagina pleaded not guilty and she did not expect her to be done justice.

His sentence came more than a year after he disappeared during a visit to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. A few days later, he appeared in Rwanda in handcuffs, accused of supporting the Rwandan Movement for Democratic Change, the armed wing of the opposition’s political platform.

The militant group claimed responsibility for the 2018 and 2019 attacks that killed nine people in southern Rwanda. Russebagina said at the hearing that he helped form an armed group to assist refugees, but he never supported the violence.

Roussabagina’s family and supporters say her arrest was in response to criticism of Kagame’s alleged violation of her rights. The Kagame government has repeatedly denied the deliberate arrests and extrajudicial executions of different voices.

Terry George, who runs Hotel Rwanda, said his film became the center of a disinformation campaign as Rusebagina’s status in the Rwandan diaspora was heightened by criticism of the Rwandan government.

Recalling the screening of the film in Kigali, the capital of Rwanda, George said of Kagame: “He turned to me and thanked me for making the film.” At the time, the film was widely accepted in Rwanda.

Since then, the Rwandan authorities have dismissed Ruessabagina as a “fabricated” hero.

Nicole Bibin Sedaka of Freedom House said that Kagame Rwanda is “one of the worst perpetrators of transnational oppression in the world”. “We must hold authoritarian regimes accountable when they use tools such as international repression, when they take political prisoners only to target and silence their critics.”

Kate Gibson, a member of Russabagina’s legal team, said her client did not receive a fair trial. She also accused members of Rusebagina’s legal team in Rwanda of “repeatedly and incredibly mistreating” on Wednesday. She did not provide any details.

On April 4, the Rwandan Court of Appeals upheld Rusabagina’s 25-year sentence, rejecting the prosecution’s attempt to sentence him to life in prison.

According to the family, Rusesabagina’s health has deteriorated.

Anaise Kanimba for her father, “Sick. He is sick, “she told her.

Source: Washington Post