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Hotel Rwanda dissident goes on trial for terrorism, murder and armed robbery

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Paul Rusesabagina, portrayed as a hero in a Hollywood movie about Rwanda's 1994 genocide, sits inside the courtroom in Kigali, Rwand. Photo: Reuters/Clement Uwiringiyimana

Paul Rusesabagina, portrayed as a hero in a Hollywood movie about Rwanda's 1994 genocide, sits inside the courtroom in Kigali, Rwand. Photo: Reuters/Clement Uwiringiyimana

Paul Rusesabagina, portrayed as a hero in a Hollywood movie about Rwanda's 1994 genocide, sits inside the courtroom in Kigali, Rwand. Photo: Reuters/Clement Uwiringiyimana

Rwandan government critic Paul Rusesabagina, best known for inspiring the film Hotel Rwanda, went on trial yesterday for terrorism charges after he was allegedly kidnapped and held hostage by authorities.

On the first day of proceedings, Mr Rusesabagina argued he could not be tried by a Rwandan court because he was a Belgian citizen.

“Let me say for the fifth time that I am Belgian and not Rwandan. I was kidnapped and brought to Rwanda and I am being held here hostage. Kidnap itself is a crime,” he told the court in Kigali, the capital city.

His family has raised concerns over the poor state of his health and the fairness of a trial they say is politically motivated in a country often criticised for human rights abuses.

Rwanda’s government denies the dissident was kidnapped, although officials have suggested he was tricked into boarding a plane he thought was headed for neighbouring Burundi. He mysteriously disappeared while on a layover in Dubai last August before unexpectedly appearing in handcuffs in his home country after being detained.

Mr Rusesabagina faces charges of forming an illegal armed group, sponsoring terrorism, murder and armed robbery. Authorities claim he had a role in a string of alleged attacks by National Liberation Front rebels in southern Rwanda along the border with Burundi in 2018.

He admits that he formed the rebel group, but denies any wrongdoing. The 66-year-old former hotel manager won worldwide fame for saving more than 1,000 people during Rwanda’s 1994 genocide. He sheltered the people in his Hotel Des Milles Collines as Hutu extremists of the Interahamwe militia went through the area killing perceived Tutsis and sympathisers.

His story became the basis of the Oscar-nominated 2004 movie Hotel Rwanda, in which he was played by the US actor Don Cheadle. Some survivors of the genocide have since claimed that he overblew his role in rescuing Tutsis and charged people money to be able to take refuge in his hotel. 

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Telegraph Media Group Limited [2022]


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