Rwandan Prosecutors Move To Appeal Verdict On ‘Hotel Rwanda’ Hero

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Paul Rusesabagina is escorted in handcuffs from the courtroom in Kigali, Rwanda. September 25, 2020.

There is a resolution to appeal against a 25-year jail sentence handed to Paul Rusesabagina, a one-time hotel manager portrayed as a hero in a Hollywood film about the 1994 genocide.

Rwandan prosecutors expressed the resolve midweek, even as they had sought a life sentence for Rusesabagina, 67, a vocal critic of President Paul Kagame.

A Rwandan court found him guilty of terrorism charges on September 20 after a trial that his supporters branded a sham, and proof of Kagame’s ruthless treatment of political opponents. 

A statement tweeted by the Prosecutor General’s office did not say why it was making the appeal. Neither the Prosecutor General’s office nor the Rwandan government could immediately be reached for comment on the matter.

Rusesabagina’s daughter Carine Kanimba, contacted after the Prosecutor General’s tweet, said the move showed that the trial of her father was politically motivated.

Said she in a Whatsapp message: “The prosecution’s decision to appeal is Kagame’s decision to hurt us even more than he already has”.

Quoted Kanimba also from what she said was a statement from Rusesabagina’s legal team: “25 years is already a life sentence. In appealing and asking for more, the Prosecution is just revealing how political this trial is and always was”.

Prosecutors had sought a life sentence for Rusesabagina on nine charges, including terrorism, arson, taking hostages and forming an armed rebel group. He was convicted of eight charges.

He has acknowledged having a leadership role in the Rwanda Movement for Democratic Change (MRCD), a group opposed to Kagame’s rule, but denied responsibility for violence carried out by its armed wing, the National Liberation Front (FLN).

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, during the 100-day genocide when Hutu ethnic extremists killed more than 800,000 people, mostly from the Tutsi minority.

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