Paul Rusesabagina, hotel manager who saved hundreds during the Rwandan genocide earning him global recognition, has been convicted by a court in Kigali of funding a rebel group that killed 9 people in the country 2018 and 2019.
Court documents say Rusesabagina founded the Rwandan Movement for Democratic Change (MRCD), an opposition group of which its militant wing, the National Liberation Front (FLN) was accused of carrying out attacks that killed 9 Rwandans in 2018 and 2019.
His co-defendants gave conflicting testimony about the level of Rusesabagina’s involvement with the FLN and its fighters.
“He founded a terrorist organization that attacked Rwanda, he financially contributed to terrorist activities,” Justice Beatrice Mukamurenzi said at the end of a seven-month trial.
Rusesabagina and his supporters deny the charges saying they were politically motivated because of his criticism of incumbent Paul Kagame, a rebel leader who ended the genocide in Rwanda.
Rusesabagina shot to fame after he sheltered hundreds of guests during the genocide in Hotel des Mille Collines in Kigali, where he served as manager. The genocide that left about 800,000 people dead, mostly ethnic Tutsis.
In 2004, a Hollywood movie “Hotel Rwanda” was made from Paul Rusesabagina’s story and was nominated for Oscar bringing his story to an international audience. Rusesabagina was played by American actor Don Cheadle.
His bravery earned him a presidential honour in the US and a state honour in Belgium.
Rusesabagina left Rwanda in 1996 for Belgium and then the United States after fiercely opposing Rwandan president Paul Kagame.
He accused Kagame, who took power in 2000 and has remained president till date, of tyranny and used his global influence to campaign against his regime.
He remained on exile as a wanted person on the Rwandan black book until he was arrested after a flight he boarded and thought was headed for Burundi landed in Kigali, the Rwandan capital city.
The Hotel Rwanda Foundation, which supports Rusesabagina, said in a statement earlier this month it was a “show trial” and that the government had failed to provide any credible evidence against him.