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A Rwandan court sentenced Paul Rusesabagina, the man who inspired a Hollywood film about the country’s genocide in 1994 and who openly criticizes President Paul Kagame, to 25 years in prison for “terrorism”.
The National Liberation Front (FLN), which opposes the Kagame government, is accused of carrying out attacks in Rwanda.
“The court notes that because of the testimonies heard, the evidence presented. . . we find that there is a prima facie case against Rusesabagina on the charge of creation and being a member of a terrorist group ”, declared Monday the judge Beatrice Mukamurenzi in Kigali, the capital of Rwanda.
“We find that Rusesabagina’s role in creating the FLN, providing funds and purchasing secure phones for them to use, all constitute a crime of terrorism. We therefore find him guilty of the crime of terrorism, ”she added. His family and the lawyers following his case say Rusesabagina did not receive a fair trial.
Critics say arrest of Belgian citizen and recipient of US Presidential Medal of Freedom highlights allegations that Kagame’s government, which won praise for transforming the country after the genocide, is aggressively cracking down on opponents at home and abroad. Kagame’s Rwandan Patriotic Front ended the 1994 genocide, in which around 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed, with a military victory.
A divisive figure in his home country, Rusesabagina was arrested last year after what his daughters described as a “kidnapping” by Rwandan authorities. He was scheduled to take a flight from Dubai to Burundi but was detained in Kigali.
“My father was kidnapped, tortured and then forced to undergo a sham trial all because he dared to denounce human rights violations in Rwanda. There is no fair trial in Rwanda. There is no independent justice and there is no justice for our father, ”said Anaïse Kanimba, her daughter.
Kagame denied that Rusesabagina was “kidnapped” by the authorities: “There was no kidnapping. There was no wrongdoing in the process of coming here. He got here on the basis of what he believed and wanted to do. This month, Kagame said on a nationwide broadcast that “this man deserves to be tried fairly in court and is going to be tried in as fair a court as possible.” And there will be nothing less than that.
But Geoffrey Robertson QC, an international human rights lawyer and the Clooney Foundation for Justice TrialWatch expert on the case, said: “This was a show trial rather than a judicial inquiry. fair. The evidence against him has been disclosed but not contested. Given Mr. Rusesabagina’s age and poor health, this harsh sentence is likely to be a death sentence. “
Rusesabagina gained international fame after the success of the 2004 film Rwanda Hotel, in which he was played by Don Cheadle. In his 2006 autobiography, An ordinary man, he describes how he was able to hide more than 1,200 people inside the Hôtel des Mille Collines in Kigali. But critics, including Kagame, have disputed his account.
“This long trial revealed the terrorist activities of the FLN group led by Rusesabagina. The evidence against the accused was indisputable, ”said Yolande Makolo, spokesperson for the Rwandan government.