An appeals court in Rwanda has decided not to change the prison sentence of Paul Rusesabagina, the owner of the hotel named in the film “Hotel Rwanda” and who later became a sharp critic of the country’s regime.
Rusesabagina was sentenced last year to 25 years in prison for terrorism-related activities. Prosecutors in Rwanda appealed the sentence to increase the prison term to life, which was rejected by the appeals court, NTB reports.
The 67-year-old former hotel manager, for his part, has boycotted all court hearings since March 2021 and has justified them on the grounds that he believes the trial against him was unfair.
– Since it was the first time he had committed a crime, the court ruled that his sentence should not be increased, as 25 years was given according to how serious the crime was. Therefore, the court upheld the sentence, said judge François Regis Rukundakuvuga.
Another opposition figure, former spokesman for the FLN rebel group Callixte Nsabimana, had his sentence reduced from 20 to 15 years. Another 19 inmates, mostly from the FLN rebel group, were allowed to serve their sentences.
Lured into a trap?
The former hotel manager, who lives in Belgium, was arrested during an overseas trip in August 2020. It is believed that Rusesabagina was framed by Rwandan intelligence services.
In an interview with the newspaper The New York Times from prison, Rusesabagina has stated that he boarded a private plane in Dubai and he is sure he will land in Burundi. It was planned here that he would give a speech, at the invitation of a Christian priest, but the plane landed instead in the Rwandan capital, Kigali.
Rwandan prosecutors accuse Rusasabagina of supporting the armed wing of the opposition group The Rwandan Movement for Democratic Change. The group was responsible for several attacks in the south of the country in 2018 and 2019 in which nine people were killed.
Hotel manager Paul Rusesabagina has been hailed as a hero after 1268 people went into hiding in the hotel he managed during the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.
While the Tutsi population was slaughtered in the thousands, many sought refuge at the Mille Collines Hotel in Kigali, of which Rusesabagina was director. The hotel manager himself is a Hutu, while his wife is a Tutsi. Miraculously, everyone hiding in the hotel survived.
Has criticized the regime
Through movies from 2004 His story became famous all over the world. Rusesabagina has since used her fame to speak out about human rights and warn against genocide. Paul Kagame and the Tutsi-dominated rebel group Rwandan Patriotic Front seized power after the 1994 genocide, and drove the Hutu-dominated regime into exile.
Kagame has in fact ruled the country ever since, and has managed to maintain peace and stability in the country. As Rwanda has experienced modernization and economic growth, it has gained goodwill and new moral authority from the international community.
The former guerrilla leader has been increasingly criticized for his authoritarian rule and brutal methods against political opponents. Rwandan government troops have also been criticized for looting, killing and gross human rights abuses in neighboring DR Congo.
The critic has disappeared
Several critics of President Paul Kagame mysteriously disappeared or lost their lives. Critics are also leveled outside the country’s borders. The Rwandan opposition has been killed or attempted to be killed in South Africa, Belgium and the UK.
At the same time, questions are raised about how big the hero Rusesabagina really is. In an article on the news service African Arguments wrote Dutch human rights researcher Jos van Oijen that one should not accept the Hotel Rwanda movie as a true retelling of what happened during the genocide, no matter what people think about the arrests themselves.
Researchers point out, among other things, that the leader of the UN forces in Rwanda during the genocide, Romeo Dallaire, who is considered a hero after the genocide itself, believes that it was his Congolese UN soldiers who saved the hotel guests, not Rusesabagina. According to van Oijen, very few of the refugees themselves have in their interviews pointed to hotel managers as their saviors.
Read more: Hotel Rwanda hero is tricked into a trap, risking years in prison
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