Hotel Rwanda Hero Just Got Convicted

Paul Rusesabagina called terrorism trial a sham orchestrated by Rwandan President Paul Kagame
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 20, 2021 7:45 AM CDT
Hotel Rwanda Hero Convicted of Terrorism
In this Feb. 26, 2021 file photo, Paul Rusesabagina speaks to lawyers as he attends a court hearing in Kigali, Rwanda.   (AP Photo/Muhizi Olivier, File)

The man whose actions were acclaimed in the movie Hotel Rwanda has been convicted of terrorism. But Paul Rusesabagina and outside observers call the trial a sham orchestrated by President Paul Kagame to silence dissent. More:

  • Conviction: On Monday, a court in Rwanda convicted Rusesabagina and fellow defendants of forming a terrorist group, specifically an armed wing of the opposition group Rwandan Movement for Democratic Change, reports the AP. "They committed terror acts which they later bragged about in different announcements and videos," declared the judge. The 67-year-old Rusesabagina, who had denied all charges against him, has not yet been sentenced. Prosecutors were pushing for life in prison, per NBC News.

  • Fame: Rusesabagina is credited with saving the lives of about 1,200 people by sheltering them in the hotel he managed during the Rwandan genocide of 1994. Don Cheadle played him in the movie and earned an Oscar nomination. Then-President George W. Bush presented Rusesabagina with the Medal of Freedom in 2005.
  • Criticism: Rusesabagina, imprisoned since last year, has boycotted the trial and called it a farce. A Boston University professor agrees. "This trial fits into a long history in Rwanda of silencing dissent," Timothy Longman tells the New York Times. "The actual verdict in the Rusesabagina case is almost irrelevant at this point, because the message has been clearly sent that no Rwandan is safe to speak out against President Kagame and the ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front."
  • Kidnap allegations: Rusesabagina had actually been living in Texas before his arrest. He says he was duped by a man he thought was an ally into flying to Rwanda's neighboring country of Burundi to speak. The private jet landed in the Rwandan capital of Kigali, where Rusesabagina was blindfolded and arrested, per the Times. The newspaper notes that the dissident wrote a 2006 memoir that included scathing criticism of Kagame, and that more than anything set up his conflict with the government.
(Read more Rwanda stories.)

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