Government critic Paul Rusesabagina is on trial in Rwanda. He is accused of terrorism. Rusesabagina is the man who inspired the film Rwanda Hotel. During the 1994 genocide, he saved more than 1,200 Tutsis from the Hutu militias.
Rusesabagina was arrested in Rwanda last year after mysteriously missing in Dubai. He is on trial on 13 counts, including terrorism, complicity in murder and founding an armed rebel movement. He has resisted President Kagame’s regime for years.
Twenty members of the armed wing (FLN) of his opposition party MRDC are on trial with him. According to Rwanda, they are responsible for the deaths of civilians in the southwest of the country in 2018 and 2019.
Rusesabagina does not deny military operations. According to him, the political opposition has failed to bring about change in the country and therefore more is needed.
President Paul Kagame, a Tutsi, has ruled the country with a heavy hand since 2000. The country had been disturbed by the struggle between Hutus and Tutsi since the early 1990s. This reached a critical point when in April 1994, the Hutu President Juvénal Habyarimana’s plane and the top of the army were shot down from the sky.
Who was responsible for it has never been elucidated, but most clues point in the direction of current President Kagame.
One of Rusesabagina’s daughters says her father was kidnapped in Dubai and tortured. He was allegedly invited by a pastor to give a conference in Burundi, a country neighboring Rwanda. They were due to fly to Burundi from Dubai, but the private plane flew to Rwanda, where it was stopped at the airport in the capital, Kigali.
President Kagame hinted last year that Rusesabagina may have been lured onto a plane to Rwanda under false pretenses. He later said that it was his voluntary choice to return to Rwanda. Rusesabagina, 66, had sworn, according to his family, never to set foot in the country again.
Rusesabagina applied for asylum in Belgium after the genocide and is of Belgian nationality. He usually resides in the United States, where he also has resident status.
Not a fair trial
The evidence in the trial was fabricated, according to her daughter. This is a violation of international law and he must be released immediately and unconditionally, she said.
According to the family, the chance that he will receive a fair trial is zero and he risks dying in prison due to health problems; he has heart problems and would not be receiving his medication. Its contacts with independent lawyers are limited. The lawyer assigned to him said Rusesabagina feared he would die of a heart attack.
The European Parliament called on Rwanda to give Rusesabagina a fair trial and denounces his “enforced disappearance” and “illegal extradition” to Rwanda and his imprisonment without contact with the outside world. Rwandan Justice Minister Johnston Busingye called this “interference in an ongoing trial in Rwanda, a sovereign state with independent courts.”
Paul Rusesabagina received a great American award for his role in saving Tutsis during the 1994 genocide, when more than 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were murdered in three months.
Rusesabagina saved more than 1,200 people during this period. He accommodated them at the Hôtel des Mille Collines in Kigali, where he was deputy director.