In Rwanda, the government critician Paul Rusesabagina is in court. Hes accused of terrorism. Rusesabagina is the man who served as inspiration for the film Hotel Rwanda. During the genocide in 1994, he rescued more than 1200 Tutsis from Hutu militias.
Rusesabagina was arrested last year in Rwanda after mysteriously disappearing in Dubai. He is on trial for thirteen counts, including terrorism, complicity in murder and the establishment of an armed rebel movement. He has been opposing President Kagames regime for years.
With him twenty more members of the armed arm (FLN) of his opposition party MRDC are on trial. According to Rwanda, they are responsible for the deaths of civilians in the southwest of the country in 2018 and 2019.
Rusesabagina does not deny the military operations. According to him, it has not been possible to change the country through political opposition and, therefore, more is needed.
President Paul Kagame, a Tutsi, has ruled the country hard since 2000. The country had been dislocated since the early 1990s by the struggle between Hutus and Tutsis. It came to a climax when the aircraft of Hutu President Juvénal Habyarimana and the army summit were shot out of the sky in April 1994.
Whoever was responsible has never been clarified, but most of the clues go in the direction of current President Kagame.
One of Rusesabaginas daughters says that her father was abducted in Dubai and that he was tortured. He was said to have been invited by a minister to give a lecture in Burundi, a neighbour of Rwanda. From Dubai they were supposed to fly to Burundi together, but the private plane flew to Rwanda, where he was arrested at the airport of the capital Kigali.
President Kagame hinted last year that Rusesabagina might have been lured on a plane to Rwanda under false pretenses. Later he said it was his voluntary choice to return to Rwanda. The 66-year-old Rusesabagina had sworn, according to his family, that he would never set foot in the country again.
After the genocide, Rusesabagina applied for asylum in Belgium and has Belgian nationality. He usually resides in the United States, where he also has a residence status.
Not a fair trial
The evidence in the trial was manufactured according to his daughter. It is a violation of international law and it must be released immediately and unconditionally, she says.
According to the family, the chance of getting a fair trial is nil and he runs the risk of dying in prison because of his poor health; he has heart problems and would not receive his medication. His contact with independent lawyers is limited. The lawyer assigned to him has informed us that Rusesabagina is afraid he will die of a heart attack.
The European Parliament called on Rwanda to give Rusesabagina a fair trial and denounced his “forced disappearance” and “illegal extradition” to Rwanda and imprisonment without contact with the outside world. Rwandan Justice Minister Johnston Busingye disregarded this as “interference in an ongoing trial in Rwanda, a sovereign state with independent courts”.
Paul Rusesabagina received a high American award for his role in rescuing Tutsis in the 1994 genocide, when over 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were murdered in three months.
Rusesabagina saved more than 1200 people at that time. He put them in the Hotel des Mille Collines in Kigali, where he was assistant manager.
The Belgian TV programme Terzake made a report about Paul Rusesabagina in August, which can be viewed in this article.