Man Who Was Portrayed As ‘Life-Saving Hero’ In Film Convicted Of Terrorism
A man previously portrayed as a ‘life saving hero’ in a film has been convicted on terrorism charges in Rwanda.
Paul Rusesabagina, 67, was hailed a hero in the film Hotel Rwanda thanks to his acts during the Rwandan genocide 27 years ago that helped save lives.
However, in 2018, he was found guilty of being involved in a series of attacks, led by a rebel group, that killed nine civilians. He has since been taken from exile to Rwanda to stand trial, according to his family.
In 1994, over just 100 days, 800,000 people largely from the Tutsi ethnic group with killed by extremists from the Hutu community, BBC News reports. In the 2004 Oscar-nominated film, Rusesabagina was portrayed as a hero during this time, helping save more than 1,000 people by sheltering them in a hotel, where he was manager.
However, the depiction of events in the film, in which Rusesabagina was played by Don Cheadle, have since been questioned by survivors of the genocide.
Rusesabagina gained attention due to his outward criticism of President Paul Kagame and the government that took over after the genocide. He reportedly accused the government of targeting Hutus and spoke of human rights abuses.
While he was in exile, Rusesabagina subsequently formed a coalition in opposition to the government. The coalition even had an armed division, called the National Liberation Front (FLN).
‘The time has come for us to use any means possible to bring about change in Rwanda,’ Rusesabagina stated in a video message, in 2018.
In 2018, nine people were killed in a series of attacks which the FLN were accused of leading. Rusesabagina revealed he had sent money to the group, but he denied telling anyone to attack civilians.
According to his family, he was forcibly removed from exile, kidnapped and taken to Rwanda last year by boarding a plane he thought was going to Burundi, but which actually took him to Rwanda.
Rusesabagina has refused to appear in court for most of the trial, withdrawing from the trial earlier in March this year. He claimed that he was ‘not being given a fair hearing’.
Rusesabagina had reportedly not received adequate access to his lawyers, according to his daughter, Carine Kanimba. She told the BBC’s Newsday programme the ‘only judge in the court’ was the president.
Rusesabagina was reportedly implicated by other members of the FLN, twenty of whom will also stand for trial alongside him.
A life sentence for Rusesabagina is being sought by the prosecution.
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