Rwandan President Paul Kagame on Sunday dismissed widespread criticism of the terrorism trial of the polarising “Hotel Rwanda” hero hailed for saving over 1,000 lives during the country’s 1994 genocide.
He said Paul Rusesabagina, now a prominent Kagame critic whose detention and trial has raised global alarm, was in the dock not because of his fame but because people had died as a result of his later actions.
Rusesabagina, 67, faces a verdict on September 20 on charges of being a terrorist mastermind who financed a rebel group behind a string of deadly attacks in the east African country.
He and his family have long rejected the allegations and say the former hotelier whose actions during the genocide inspired the 2004 Hollywood film is the victim of a politically motivated show trial.
Prosecutors are seeking a life sentence for Rusesabagina, who they accuse of supporting the rebel National Liberation Front (FLN), a group blamed for attacks inside Rwanda in 2018 and 2019 that killed nine people.
“He is here being tried for that. Nothing to do with the film. Nothing to do with celebrity status,” Kagame said in a nationally televised interview.
“It is about the lives of Rwandans that were lost because of his actions and because of the organisations that he belonged to or led,” he said.”What he is being tried for and accused of is having a hand in these armed groups and terrorists…
This man deserves to be fairly tried in the court of law and is going to be tried as fairly as that can be.
“Rusesabagina has denied any involvement in the attacks, but was a founder of the Rwandan Movement for Democratic Change (MRCD), an opposition group of which the FLN is seen as the armed wing.