The “Hotel Rwanda” hero, Paul Rusesabagina, who became a vicious government critic, was on Monday, found guilty on terror charges, after a trial which his supporters tagged a politically motivated “show trial”.
Rusesabagina was convicted of backing a rebel group blamed for a deadly gun, grenade, and arson attacks in Rwanda in 2018 and 2019.
The presiding judge, Justice Beatrice Mukamurenzi at the end of the seven-month trial, held that suspect founded a terrorist organisation that attacked Rwanda, and also financially contributed to terrorist activities.
Rwandan prosecutors have sought a life sentence for Rusesabagina, the 67-year-old former hotelier credited with saving hundreds of lives during the 1994 genocide, and whose actions inspired the Hollywood film, Hotel Rwanda.
It was gathered that neither he nor his lawyers were in court for the verdict, although 20 other defendants in the case attended.
Rusesabagina, who used his fame to denounce Rwandan leader, Paul Kagame, as a dictator, was arrested in August 2020 when a plane he believed was bound for Burundi landed instead in the Rwandan capital Kigali.
However, his family has maintained that Rusesabagina was kidnapped and had rejected the nine charges against him as payback by a vengeful government for his outspoken views.
Earlier this month, Kagame had dismissed criticism of the case, saying Rusesabagina was in the dock not because of his fame but over the lives lost “because of his actions”.
The trial commenced in February but Rusesabagina, who is a Belgian citizen and US green card holder boycotted it from March, accusing the court of “unfairness and a lack of independence”.
The United States — which awarded Rusesabagina its Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005 — along with the European Parliament and Belgium were among those who raised concerns about his transfer to Rwanda and the fairness of his trial.
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