Rwandan court convicts Hotel Rwanda hero of terrorism

Reuters file photo: Paul Roussebagina, who was known as the protagonist of a 1994 Hollywood movie about the genocide, has been arrested and paraded in front of the media in a handcuff at the Rwandan Bureau of Investigation headquarters, August 31, 2020

By Clement Uwiringiyimana

KIGALI (Reuters) – A Rwandan court on Monday convicted former hotel manager Paul Rusabagina, who starred as the protagonist in a Hollywood film of the 1R genocide, after pleading guilty to terrorism charges on Monday.

Rousseau’s 67-year-old President Paul Kagame’s voice has been criticized around the world after playing the role of actor Don Chadelle in “Hotel Rwanda”. He denied all allegations, saying he had been abducted from Dubai for trial this year. Proponents of her case have been working to make the actual transcript of this statement available online.

Judge Antoine Muhima said, “Rusebagina … is a member of a terrorist group and has been convicted of participating in terrorist activities, but he has been acquitted of creating an illegal armed group.”

Prosecutors sought Rusebagina’s life sentence on nine charges, including terrorism, arson, hostage-taking and the formation of an armed rebel group. He was convicted on eight counts.

Rushabagina has acknowledged a leadership role in the Rwanda Movement for Democratic Change (MRCD), a party opposed to Kagam’s regime, but has denied responsibility for the violence, led by its armed wing, the National Liberation Front (FLN).

Twenty other defendants tried with him, including Ensabimana in Calicut, popularly known as Shankara, a spokesman for the FLN. He told the court that Rusebagina was not a member of the armed forces. But the judges said the two groups were not separate, referring to them as MRCD-FLN. Nsabimana got 20 years.

Hollywood hero

Rusebagina refused to attend the trial and did not appear in court after attending the first few hearings in bright pink prison uniforms, masks and handcuffs.

The 200-film film showed him risking his life to shelter hundreds of people as the manager of a luxury hotel in the Rwandan capital Kigali during the 100-day genocide, when Hutu ethnic extremists killed more than 800,000 Tutsi and moderate Hutus.

Chadle was nominated for an Oscar, and Rousseau received the Medal of Independence – the highest civilian award from US President George W. Bush in 2005.

Genocide survivors have accused Rusabagina of using her grief to show that she is heroic.

“This film is fictional … he acted in a film and did not qualify for the award,” Naftal Ahishakiye, executive secretary of the genocidal organization Ibukar, told Reuters by phone.

Such comments have previously been dismissed by Russabagina’s family as a hazy campaign.

Political criticism

Roussebagina used his reputation as what he described as a violation of rights by Kagame’s government, a Tutsi rebel commander who seized power after his forces occupied Kigali and stopped the genocide.

Russessbagina’s father’s name was Hutu and his mother and wife were Tutsi. He became a Belgian citizen after the genocide and lived in exile in the United States until last year.

In a video posted on YouTube in 2018, Rusebagina called for armed resistance, saying change could not be achieved in a democratic way. A year ago, Kagame won re-election with 99% of the vote.

Rusesabagina’s trial began in February, six months after she arrived in Kigali on a flight from Dubai. His supporters say he was abducted; The Rwandan government advised him to board a private plane. Human Rights Watch said his arrest amounted to a forcible disappearance, which he called a serious violation of international law.

The paper denies allegations of abuse and has the support of Western donors to restore stability and boost economic growth. Rights groups have described the Rausabagina case as part of intimidating Kagam’s political opponents.

“The ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) continues to target individuals considered a threat,” Human Rights Watch said in a report last year, detailing arbitrary detentions, misconduct and torture.

RWANDANS response

Rausabagina’s daughter, Karin Kanimba, said the family knew what the verdict would be.

“He was denied access to his lawyers, the international legal team, and even his Rwandan lawyers. He had limited access to them and was then held in solitary confinement for 250 days,” he told Reuters.

Rusabagina’s Rwandan lawyer said they would meet with him to find out if he was willing to appeal. He accused the Rwandan authorities of withholding legal documents and denying him access to an international team.

Faustin Enkusi, a spokesman for the Rwandan prosecution, insisted the trial was fair.

But Human Rights Watch said there had been “multiple violations” of the right to a fair trial and that “Rwandan courts are affected by political influence.”

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