Prosecutors challenging sentence for 'Hotel Rwanda' hero

Prosecutors challenging sentence for 'Hotel Rwanda' hero
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Prosecutors say they are challenging the sentence of “Hotel Rwanda” hero Paul Rusesabagina. 

Prosecutors announced the decision to challenge Rusesabagina’s 25-year prison sentence in a tweet on Wednesday, according to The Washington Post. Further information was not available. 

Rusesabagina was sentenced last month after being convicted on charges stemming from terrorism, arson, and forming a terrorist group.

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The 67-year-old's trial lasted one month, and the outcome was opposed by supporters and members of the international community, according to the Post. The American Bar Association at the time said that the trial was flawed and the result of political motivation, according to the paper. 

Rusesabagina was originally accused, along with over a dozen other defendants, of responsibility for attacks committed by the National Liberation Front, a militant wing of the opposition. And while he admitted that he was associated with the coalition, Rusesabagina said he did not claim responsibility for their attacks. 

Prosecutors initially sought a life sentence for Rusesabagina on the charges, but Rusesabagina's daughter, Carine Hanimba, told The Post in an email that a 25-year sentence is “already a life sentence.”

“Rwandan authorities may see an interest in keeping the trial in the news in an attempt to control the story,” Hanimba said. “They want the world to see Paul Rusesabagina as a terrorist, because this is not only punishment … but it will also have a chilling effect on others who might want to dissent.” 

Rusesabagina, a former hotel manager, was portrayed by actor Don Cheadle in the 2004 film, showing how he sheltered hundreds during the Rwandan civil war in 1994. During the civil war, an extremist group killed 800,000 people, mostly of the Tutsi ethnic group.

But Rusesabagina had also been a longtime critic of Rwandan President Paul Kagame, alleging that the government violated citizens’ rights.

Rusesabagina has denied all the charges against him.

Rusesabagina’s conviction was criticized by the State Department, which noted that he is a legal, U.S. permanent resident. He also has Belgian citizenship. 

“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,” the agency said at the time.