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Paul Rusesabagina – a one-time hotel manager portrayed as a hero in a Hollywood film about the nation’s 1994 genocide – was found guilty of being part of a group responsible for “terrorist” attacks and sentenced to 25 years in prison by a Rwandan court.
The ABA Center for Human Rights says a guilty verdict and 25-year sentence are unfair in the Rwandan terrorism trial of Paul Rusesabagina, the activist and former hotelier whose lifesaving efforts inspired the movie Hotel Rwanda.
Geoffrey Robertson wrote a June TrialWatch report on the trial with ABA Center for Human Rights staff.
“This was a show trial rather than a fair judicial inquiry,” Robertson said in a press release.
Rusesabagina was credited with helping save more than 1,000 people during Rwanda’s 1994 genocide by sheltering ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus at the hotel he managed, according to a background report by the ABA Center for Human Rights.
He later became a critic of Rwandan leader Paul Kagame and co-founded a coalition of opposition groups in 2018. An armed wing of the coalition group has been accused in several Rwandan attacks.
Rusesabagina, who fled Rwanda with his family in 1996 and is now a Belgian citizen and permanent U.S. resident, travelled to Dubai on Aug. 27, 2020, to meet up with a Burundi-born pastor who Rusesabagina alleges had invited him to speak at churches in Burundi about his experience during the Rwandan genocide. Later that night, the pair hopped on a private jet that Rusesabagina believed would take them to Burundi’s capital, according to Rusesabagina’s international legal team.
Rusesabagina did not know that the pastor was working as an informant for the Rwanda Investigation Bureau (RIB) and had tricked him into boarding a chartered flight to Kigali.
Rwandan prosecutors allege that Rusesabagina wanted to go to Burundi to coordinate with rebel groups based there and in the neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo.