x

Culture

Activists Urge Release of “Hotel Rwanda” Hero Rusesabagina

KAMPALA, Uganda — Rights activists and others are urging Rwandan authorities to free the man who inspired the film “Hotel Rwanda,” saying his health is failing after an appeals court upheld his 25-year jail term for terror offenses.

Paul Rusesabagina, who holds Belgian citizenship and U.S. residency, is credited with sheltering a group of ethnic Tutsi during Rwanda’s 1994 genocide. He was convicted in September on charges including membership in a terrorist group, murder and abduction.

Rusesabagina is a well-known critic of Rwandan President Paul Kagame and lived in exile in the U.S.

Some activists who spoke Wednesday during an online event in support of Rusesabagina said the U.S. could do more to free the 67-year-old recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom. They also appealed to the compassion of Rwandan authorities.

“I am asking President Kagame that you extend the grace that you’ve shown to me and my family to Paul and his family now,” said Don Cheadle, appealing to Rwanda’s leader. “Please lead with mercy.”

Cheadle, who played Rusesabagina in the 2004 Hollywood movie, said the former hotel manager had “more than given his pound of flesh” after many months in custody.

Rusesabagina is credited with saving more than 1,000 people by sheltering them at the hotel he managed during the genocide, in which more than 800,000 Tutsi and Hutu who tried to protect them were killed.

He left Rwanda in 1996.

The criminal case against Rusesabagina attracted international attention because of his high profile, the circumstances surrounding his arrest in 2020, and his limited access to an independent legal team. Throughout his trial Rusesabagina maintained that he was not guilty and asserted that he didn’t expect to get justice.

His conviction came more than a year after he disappeared during a visit to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. He appeared days later in Rwanda in handcuffs, accused of supporting the armed wing of his opposition political platform, the Rwandan Movement for Democratic Change.

The armed group claimed some responsibility for attacks in 2018 and 2019 that killed nine people in southern Rwanda. Rusesabagina testified at trial that he helped to form the armed group to help refugees but said he never supported violence.

Rusesabagina’s family and supporters insist his arrest was in response to his criticism of Kagame over alleged rights abuses. Kagame’s government has repeatedly denied targeting dissenting voices with arrests and extrajudicial killings.

Terry George, who directed “Hotel Rwanda,” said his film became “the center of a disinformation campaign” as Rusesabagina’s stature in the Rwandan diaspora grew with his criticism of Rwandan authorities.

“He turned to me and thanked me for making the film,” George said of Kagame, recalling a screening of the film in Kigali, the Rwandan capital. “The film was universally received in Rwanda at the time.”

Rwandan officials have since dismissed Rusesabagina as a “manufactured” hero.

Kagame’s Rwanda “is one of the world’s worst perpetrators of transnational repression,” said Nicole Bibbins Sedaca of the Freedom House group. “We have to hold authoritarian regimes to account when they use tools like transnational repression, when they take political prisoners simply to target and silence their critics.”

Kate Gibson, a member of Rusesabagina’s legal team, said her client didn’t get a just trial. She also charged Wednesday that members of Rusesabagina’s legal team in Rwanda “have been subjected to unthinkable indignities over and over again.” She gave no details.

A Rwandan appeals court on April 4 upheld Rusesabagina’s 25-year jail sentence, rejecting prosecutors’ efforts to have him imprisoned for life.

Rusesabagina’s health has worsened, according to his family.

“He is sick. He is ill,” Anaise Kanimba said of her father. “We probably believe he had a stroke and we don’t have time. We don’t have time, and that’s why we need your help. We need the help of the international community. We need the help of the world.”

 

RELATED

CANNES, France (AP) — Before a journalist has even lobbed a question, Emma Stone and Yorgos Lanthimos spit out a string of overlapping answers.

Top Stories

Columnists

A pregnant woman was driving in the HOV lane near Dallas.

General News

NEW YORK – Meropi Kyriacou, the new Principal of The Cathedral School in Manhattan, was honored as The National Herald’s Educator of the Year.

Video

Tornado Kills Multiple People in Iowa as Powerful Storms Again Tear Through Midwest

GREENFIELD, Iowa (AP) — Multiple people were killed when a tornado tore through a small town in Iowa and left a wide swath of obliterated homes and crumpled cars, while the howling winds also twisted and toppled wind turbines.

NAFPLIO, Greece (AP) — A group of Egyptians jailed for nearly a year pending trial for a deadly shipwreck were released from jail Wednesday, a day after a Greek court threw out the case against them on grounds that it had no jurisdiction to try it.

ATHENS - As Greece has been focused on the #MeToo movement about sexual harassment and femicide, a disturbing statistic showed that two children go missing every three days in Greece, and an adult every two days.

Cyprus was occupied by humans as long as 14,257 years ago, far earlier than previously believed, said a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences led by Prof.

The stepbrother of Princess Tatiana of Greece and Denmark vanished in a luxury neighborhood of the celebrity haven of Malibu, California, with officials worried for his safety as they try to find him.

Enter your email address to subscribe

Provide your email address to subscribe. For e.g. [email protected]

You may unsubscribe at any time using the link in our newsletter.