‘Hotel Rwanda’ hero convicted on terrorism charges

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Paul Rusesabagina, a former hotel manager who is the central character in the 2004 hit movie “Hotel Rwanda,” has been convicted on terrorism charges, Reuters reported.

Rwandan Judge Beatrice Mukamurenzi said in court Monday that Rusesabagina, along with 19 other defendants, was a part of the National Liberation Front terrorist group. 

Prosecutors in the case sought a life sentence for Rusesabagina on nine charges stemming from terrorism, arson, taking hostages and forming an armed rebel group, according to Reuters.

A sentence is expected to be handed down on Monday.

Rusesabagina has denied all charges against him, arguing that Rwandan authorities kidnapped him last year while he was arriving on a flight from Dubai.

Rusesabagina gained international fame after actor Don Cheadle portrayed him in the highly-acclaimed Hollywood film, which details how Rusesabagina sheltered hundreds during the Rwandan Civil War in 1994.

An extremist group at the time killed 800,000 people, mostly of the Tutsi ethnic group, according to Reuters.

Tutsi rebel commander Kagame took control of the capital of Kigali and halted the genocide, Reuters reported. 

Rusesabagina, 67, has been a longtime critic of the government of Rwandan President Paul Kagame, saying that the government violated the rights of Rwandan citizens. 

Supporters of the famed hotel manager say that the trial is a sham, adding this is an example of Kagame’s ruthless treatment of political opponents, Reuters noted. 

State Department spokesperson Ned Price said on Monday that the U.S. is concerned by the conviction, noting that Rusesabagina is a lawful U.S. permanent resident.

“The reported lack of fair trial guarantees calls into question the fairness of the verdict,” Price said in a statement. “We have consistently highlighted the importance of respect for all applicable legal protections throughout these proceedings and have raised concerns that these protections were not addressed in an impartial manner consistent with Rwanda’s international commitments.”

Price said the U.S. is also concerned “by the objections Mr. Rusesabagina raised related to his lack of confidential, unimpeded access to his lawyers and relevant case documents and his initial lack of access to counsel.

“We urge the Government of Rwanda to take steps to examine these shortcomings in Mr. Rusesabagina’s case and establish safeguards to prevent similar outcomes in the future,” Price added.

–Updated at 1:24 p.m.

Tags Genocide Hotel Rwanda Paul Rusesabagina Rwanda Rwandan Civil War

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