A Rwandan court on Monday said Paul Rusesabagina, a one-time hotel manager portrayed as a hero in a Hollywood film about the 1994 genocide, was guilty of terrorism-related charges.
“They should be found guilty for being part of this terror group – MRCD-FLN,” said judge Beatrice Mukamurenzi. “They attacked people in their homes, or even in their cars on the road travelling.”
Mr Rusesabagina (67) who criticised President Paul Kagame from exile after being portrayed by actor Don Cheadle in the film Hotel Rwanda, had denied all the charges and said he was kidnapped from Dubai to stand trial.
His supporters called the trial a sham, and proof of Mr Kagame’s ruthless treatment of political opponents. His family says he is in poor health.
Prosecutors have sought a life sentence on nine charges, including terrorism, arson, taking hostages and forming an armed rebel group which he directed from exile in the United States.
Mr Rusesabagina became a global celebrity after the 2004 film Hotel Rwanda depicted him risking his life to shelter hundreds as the boss of a luxury hotel in the Rwandan capital Kigali, during the 100-day genocide when Hutu ethnic extremists killed more than 800,000 people, mostly from the Tutsi minority.
Mr Rusesabagina used his fame to highlight what he described as rights violations by the government of Kagame, a Tutsi rebel commander who took power after his forces captured Kigali and halted the genocide.
Mr Rusesabagina’s trial began in February, six months after he was arrested on arrival in Kigali on a flight from Dubai. His supporters say he was kidnapped; the Rwandan government suggested he was tricked into boarding a private plane.
Human Rights Watch said at the time that his arrest amounted to an enforced disappearance, which it called a serious violation of international law. – Reuters