A Rwandan court has sentenced Paul Rusesabagina, the former hotelier whose life-saving role during the 1994 genocide inspired the film “Hotel Rwanda,” to 25 years in prison on terrorism charges.
The court in Kigali found Rusesabagina guilty on Sept. 20 of a number of charges, including forming an illegal armed group, financing a terrorist group, murder, and abduction, after a seven-month trial.
The charges stem from his alleged connections to a series of raids into Rwanda by rebels in neighboring countries over the last decade, including deadly attacks in 2018 and 2019.
Prosecutors said that Rusesabagina recruited dozens of fighters of rebel group Forces for National Liberation (FLN), which was the armed wing of the exiled political party Rwanda Movement for Democratic Change.
According to Judge Beatrice Mukamurenzi, evidence showed that Rusesabagina and another accused were part of a terrorist group and committed terrorist acts, “which they later bragged about in different announcements and videos.”
Prosecutors sought a life sentence, but Mukamurenzi reduced the term to 25 years because it was Rusesabagina’s first conviction.
Rusesabagina’s family, however, warned in a statement after the verdict that “if the international community does not step in, he will probably be in jail for the rest of his life,” according to ABC News.
Rusesabagina, who was the general manager of the Hotel des Mille Collines in Kigali during the 1994 Rwandan genocide, said that he used his job and influence to protect the lives of 1,200 people sheltered in the hotel. His role then inspired a 2004 Hollywood film.
However, the Rwandan government disputes Rusesabagina’s story and Ibuka, a Rwandan genocide survivors group, has said that he exaggerated his role.
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