A Rwandan court on Monday found Paul Rusesabagina, a former hotel manager portrayed as a hero in a Hollywood movie about the 1994 genocide, guilty of being part of a group responsible for terrorist attacks.
“They should be found guilty for being part of this terrorist group – MRCD-FLN,” Judge Beatrice Mukamurenzi said of 20 defendants, including Rusesabagina. “They attacked people in their homes, or even in their cars on the road.”
The case has had a high profile since Rusesabagina, 67, was arrested last year upon arrival from Dubai after what he described as a kidnapping by Rwandan authorities.
Since being portrayed by actor Don Cheadle as the hero of the 2004 film “Hotel Rwanda,” Rusesabagina has emerged as a prominent critic of US-based President Paul Kagame. He had denied all the charges against him, while his supporters called the trial a sham and evidence of Kagame’s ruthless treatment of political opponents.
Prosecutors had requested life in prison on nine counts, including terrorism, arson, hostage-taking and the formation of an armed rebel group that he led from abroad. Following the announcement of the initial verdict, one of the defendants became ill, prompting a brief recess that delayed verdicts on other charges and sentencing.
Rusesabagina became a global celebrity after the film, which showed him risking his life to house hundreds as the head of a luxury hotel in Rwanda’s capital Kigali during the 100-day genocide in which ethnic Hutu extremists killed. more than 800,000 people, mostly Tutsis. minority.
Cheadle was nominated for an Oscar for the role. Rusesabagina used her fame to highlight what she described as rights violations by the government of Kagame, a Tutsi rebel commander who took power after his forces captured Kigali and stopped the genocide.
Rusesabagina’s trial began in February, six months after she arrived in Kigali on a flight from Dubai. His followers say he was kidnapped; the Rwandan government suggested that he was tricked into boarding a private plane. Human Rights Watch said at the time that his arrest amounted to enforced disappearance, which it called a serious violation of international law.