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HomeEntertainmentRwanda says Rusesabagina of 'Hotel Rwanda' fame will be released

Rwanda says Rusesabagina of ‘Hotel Rwanda’ fame will be released


The Rwandan government commuted the 25-year sentence of Paul Rusesabagina, who inspired the movie “Hotel Rwanda” for saving hundreds of his compatriots from genocide, but he was convicted of terrorism offenses years later in a highly criticized trial.

Government spokeswoman Yolande Makolo told the Associated Press on Friday that the presidential order was issued after a request for clemency, and Rusesabagina, a 68-year-old US resident and Belgian citizen, is expected to be released on Saturday. Nineteen others also had their sentences commuted. Under Rwandan law, commutation does not “extinguish” the sentence, Makolo added.

“Rwanda highlights the constructive role of the US government in creating the conditions for dialogue on this issue, as well as the facilitation provided by the state of Qatar,” he said. Chairman Paul Kagame said earlier this month that talks were underway to resolve the issue.

Qatari Foreign Ministry spokesman Majid Al-Ansari said in a statement that “the procedure for the transfer (of Rusesabagina) to the state of Qatar is underway and he will then proceed to the United States of America. This issue was discussed during meetings that brought together Qatari and Rwandan officials at the highest level.”

The case had been described by the United States and others as unfair. Rusesabagina disappeared in 2020 during a visit to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates and appeared days later in Rwanda in handcuffs. His family claimed that he was kidnapped and taken to Rwanda against his will to stand trial.

He was found guilty of eight charges, including membership in a terrorist group, murder and kidnapping. But the circumstances surrounding his arrest, his limited access to an independent legal team and his deteriorating health raised international concern.

Rusesabagina has claimed that his arrest was in response to his criticism of Kagame for alleged human rights abuses. The Kagame government has repeatedly denied targeting dissenting voices with arrests and extrajudicial killings.

In a signed letter to Kagame dated October 14 and posted on the Justice Ministry website, Rusesabagina wrote that “if I am granted clemency and released, I fully understand that I will spend the rest of my days in the United States quietly reflecting . . I can assure you through this letter that I have no personal or political ambitions otherwise. I will leave behind questions about Rwanda politics.”

Rusesabagina was credited with housing more than 1,000 ethnic Tutsis at the hotel he managed during the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, which killed more than 800,000 Tutsis and Hutus who tried to protect them. He received the United States Presidential Medal of Freedom for his efforts.

He became a public critic of Kagame and left Rwanda in 1996, first living in Belgium and then in the US.

Human Rights Watch said he had been “forcibly disappeared” and taken to Rwanda. But the court ruled that he was not kidnapped when he was tricked into boarding a chartered flight. The Rwandan government claimed that Rusesabagina had been going to Burundi to coordinate with armed groups based there and in the Congo.

Rusesabagina was accused of supporting the armed wing of his opposition political platform, the Rwandan Movement for Democratic Change. The armed group claimed part of the 2018 and 2019 attacks in southern Rwanda that killed nine Rwandans.

Rusesabagina testified at the trial that she helped form the armed group to help refugees, but said she never supported the violence and tried to distance herself from its deadly attacks.

Rusesabagina has also said that he was gagged and tortured before being imprisoned, but this has been denied by the Rwandan authorities. His lawyer, Felix Rudakemwa, said prison authorities confiscated Rusesabagina’s legal documents.

After his sentencing, then Belgian Foreign Minister Sophie Wilmes said that “it must be concluded that Mr. Rusesabagina has not had a fair and just trial.”

Last year, US Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken met with Kagame in Rwanda and discussed the case. “We still have the conviction that the trial was not fair,” Blinken told reporters.

“Secretary Blinken’s visit to Kigali in August, as the highest-ranking official to visit Rwanda, played a key role in bringing us closer to Paul’s eventual release,” said a US official who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private diplomatic talks. . Blinken and Kagame “discussed a lot about the roadmap for Paul’s eventual release,” the official said.

When the news broke on Friday, Rusesabagina’s family said in a statement that “we are pleased to hear the news of Paul’s release. The family is hoping to reunite with him soon.”

Anna reported from Nairobi. Lujain Jo in Doha, Qatar, and Matt Lee in Washington contributed.

Merry C. Vega is a highly respected and accomplished news author. She began her career as a journalist, covering local news for a small-town newspaper. She quickly gained a reputation for her thorough reporting and ability to uncover the truth.

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