A Rwandan court has found government critic and former hotel manager Paul Rusesabagina guilty of terrorist activity. According to the court, he supports a military group that committed fatal attacks in Rwanda.
Justice had claimed life against Rusesabagina, but it is unclear whether that sentence will be imposed. The 67-year-old Rwandan was not present in court himself, as he feels that the trial went unfairly.
Rusesabagina is known worldwide for the 2004 film Hotel Rwanda, which is based on his life. The film is about the Rwandan genocide in 1994, when violent Hutu militias killed hundreds of thousands of people in a matter of months, especially Tutsis. Rusesabagina sheltered hundreds of refugees in the luxury hotel of which he was the manager at the time. It saved more than 1200 lives.
After the genocide Rusesabagina fled Rwanda. Since the late 90s he has been living alternately in Belgium and the United States. From there, he criticizes the Rwandan government. In 2017, he founded the MRCD movement, which remotely opposes President Kagames regime.
The armed arm of that movement, the National Liberation Front (NLF), was involved in terrorist attacks in Rwanda in 2018 and 2019. According to justice, that makes Rusesabagina responsible for those attacks, involving multiple deaths. He himself denies any involvement. According to him, the diplomatic and violent branch of MRCD were controlled separately.
However, Rusesabagina said last year, at the beginning of his trial, that he had contributed 20,000 euros to the military branch. “NLF killed people,” he acknowledged. “If bad deeds have been carried out against the population, I am sorry and ask for forgiveness from the next of kin.”
Rusesabagina was arrested last August, on suspicion of terrorism, kidnapping and complicity in murder, among others. According to critics, he was trapped by the Rwandan regime. The government critic would have been asked to give a lecture on genocide in Burundi, a neighbouring country of Rwanda. But the plane he was in flew to the Rwandan capital Kigali, where Rusesabagina was arrested immediately.
His daughter spoke of a kidnapping. The European Parliament, US Congressmen and human rights organisations have also condemned Rusesabaginas arrest.
Supporters of the former hotel manager call the trial against him a sham. They say hes being punished for his criticism of the government.
What happened in Rwanda in 1994? Watch the video for a look back: