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Rwanda Hotel hero Paul Rusesabagina charged with ‘terrorism’ | tidings



Paul Rusesabagina, portrayed as a hero in a Hollywood movie about the 1994 Rwandan genocide, has faced 12 charges including “terrorism” in a case that sheds light on President Paul Kagame’s opposition.

Bring in a court in Kigalihandcuffed to a van labeled “RIB” for the Rwandan Bureau of Investigation, Rusesabagina wore an anti-coronavirus mask and landed during the hearing on Monday.

He did not immediately offer a plea but one of his government-appointed lawyers, David Rugaza, said Rusesabagina was on trial for exercising his freedom of speech.

Rusesabagina, who once called for armed resistance to the government in a YouTube video, was charged with “terrorism”, conspiracy to commit murder and forming or joining an armed group, among other charges.

The 66-year-old former hotel manager was portrayed in the Oscar-nominated film Hotel Rwanda using his ties to the Hutu elite to protect more than 1,000 Tutsis fleeing genocide.

After the genocide, Rusesabagina gained Belgian citizenship and became a resident of the United States, turning into a strong critic of Kagame whom he accused of stifling the opposition.

“He acquired Belgian citizenship in 1999 and therefore there is another major issue here where it can be said that Rwanda is judging a foreign national for the freedom of expression he enjoyed while abroad,” Rugaza told a court hearing. .

Rusesabagina is the recipient of several international honors, including the U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom, which President George W Bush awarded him in 2005.

However, some in Rwanda, including Kagame, have accused Rusesabagina of exaggerating his heroism, which he denies.

Kagame has ruled Rwanda since the end of the genocide and won the last election – in 2017 – with almost 99 percent of the vote. He has been widely praised for restoring Rwanda to post-genocide stability and boosting economic growth.

But international rights groups and political opponents say his rule is increasingly tainted by repression.

Still still unclear how Rusesabagina came to Rwanda, though Kagame hinted in an interview earlier this month that he might have been tricked into boarding a private jet.

Rwandan police have said Rusesabagina was arrested on an international warrant. His family opposes him and say he was abducted from Dubai.

Human Rights Watch last week said Rusesabagina was a victim of enforced disappearance.

In a statement Wednesday, Amnesty International calledRwandan authorities to guarantee his right to a fair trial.

“The lack of transparency about the arrest of Paul Rusesabagina and reports that he has been denied access to a lawyer employed by his family are red flags that cannot be ignored as authorities prepare for his trial,” said Deprose Muchena, director of Amnesty. for East and South Africa.

Kagame has said that the trial of Rusesabagina will be held openly and will be conducted fairly. “We are obliged to do so,” he said in a television interview. “We want to do things the right way.”

Al Jazeera and news agencies

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