I’m ready to face terror charges against me, says 'Hotel Rwanda' hero

Thursday September 3 2020

Paul

Paul Rusesabagina at his cell at the Remera Metropolitan Police Station, Kigali, Rwanda on September 3, 2020. PHOTO | COURTESY 

IVAN R. MUGISHA
By IVAN R. MUGISHA
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BERNA NAMATA
By BERNA NAMATA
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Paul Rusesabagina, the ‘Hotel Rwanda’ film hero, who was arrested early this week to face terror, murder, and arson charges, says he is choosing his defence team to prove his innocence.

In an exclusive interview with The EastAfrican, Mr Rusesabagina, said from his police cell that he has so far been treated “with kindness” and expects to receive justice and a fair trial in Rwanda.

“I have been treated with kindness. Last night I had pasta and today porridge. I have my medication because I move with my tablets for blood pressure and a cardiovascular condition,” he said, adding that he was visited by two medical doctors on Thursday.

Mr Rusesabagina is being held at the Remera Metropolitan Police Station, where he is provided with a bed, mattress and a mosquito net.

His cell also has a personal bathroom fitted with accessories.

He sat on a small chair for the interview, and was wearing a black suit and a cream shirt with no tie, and a face mask.

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After granting consent for an on-the-record interview, Mr Rusesabagina spoke calmly and in a measured tone.

I have been offered an option to choose my defense team. Investigations are still ongoing, I do not want to discuss details of a matter before the court. I do not want to discuss my charges because this is an issue that is before court and investigations are ongoing,” he said.

He declined to discuss details concerning how he was arrested, and how he arrived in Rwanda.

“I have taken note of the charges and interrogations are still going on. This is a matter that is before the courts of law,” he said.

No family member has visited him yet, he said.

Arrest

Following his arrest, Mr Rusesabagina, whose heroic actions during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi inspired the Hollywood movie ‘Hotel Rwanda’, was paraded before the media by Rwandan authorities on Monday.

His deeds are also captured in the 1998 book, We Wish to Inform You that Tomorrow We Will be Killed With Our Families, by American journalist and author Philip Gourevitch.

It remains unclear how he ended up on Rwandan soil, where had not set foot in almost 20 years.

Authorities said he was arrested on an international warrant, and with the cooperation of other countries.

He is accused of founding and sponsoring an armed rebellion that claimed multiple attacks on Rwandan territory, leading to deaths and destruction of property.

While living in Belgium and the US with his family, he formed the Rwandan Movement for Democratic Change (MRCD) in 2018, an opposition party with a military wing -- the National Liberation Front (FLN) -- that has claimed responsibility for a spate of attacks in Rwanda, from its base in eastern DRC.

He has also been a fierce critic of President Paul Kagame since the early 2000s, often accusing his government of undermining human rights.

The US government has said that it is closely watching the case against him.

Tibor Nagy, the US Assistant Secretary for African Affairs, said he met with Rwanda’s ambassador to the US, Mathilde Mukantabana, on Thursday, to discuss Mr Rusesabagina's arrest.

“The United States expects the Rwandan government to provide humane treatment, adhere to the rule of law, and provide a fair and transparent legal process for Mr Rusesabagina,” Mr Nagy said.

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