Life sentence sought for ‘Hotel Rwanda’ hero

‘Hotel Rwanda’ hero Paul Rusesabagina in the pink inmate’s uniform arrives from the Nyarugenge prison with Rwanda Correctional Service (RCS) officers at the Nyarugenge Court of Justice in Kigali, Rwanda, September 25, 2020. — AFP pic
‘Hotel Rwanda’ hero Paul Rusesabagina in the pink inmate’s uniform arrives from the Nyarugenge prison with Rwanda Correctional Service (RCS) officers at the Nyarugenge Court of Justice in Kigali, Rwanda, September 25, 2020. — AFP pic

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KIGALI (Rwanda), June 18 — Prosecutors in Rwanda yesterday sought a life sentence for “Hotel Rwanda” hero and government critic Paul Rusesabagina, who is charged with terrorism in a trial denounced as political by his supporters.

“We have showed that every act by Rusesabagina was criminal in nature with the intent to commit terrorism,” said prosecutor Jean Pierre Habarurema, during a seven-hour hearing.

“We therefore request that he is given the maximum sentence provided for by the law, which is life imprisonment.”

The former manager of Kigali’s Hotel des Mille Collines was made famous by the 2004 Hollywood film that told how he saved more than 1,000 people who sheltered in his hotel during the genocide, a decade earlier, in which an estimated 800,000 died, most of them ethnic Tutsis.

Rusesabagina, a Hutu, subsequently became a prominent and outspoken critic of President Paul Kagame and has lived in exile in the US and Belgium since 1996.

Kagame’s government accuses him of supporting the National Liberation Front (FLN) rebel group which is blamed for a series of gun, grenade and arson attacks in 2018 and 2019 that killed nine people.

Rusesabagina has denied any involvement in those attacks, but was a founder of the Rwandan Movement for Democratic Change (MRCD), an opposition group of which the FLN is seen as the armed wing. He faces nine charges, including terrorism.

“As a leader, sponsor and supporter of MRCD/FLN, he encouraged and empowered the fighters to commit those terrorist acts against Rwanda,” said Habarurema.

“Even if he did not actively take part in these attacks, he is considered as one who played a role by simply being a sponsor to these fighters.” — AFP

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