State seeks life sentence against Hotel Rwanda 'hero'

Friday June 18 2021

Paul Rusesabagina when he was paraded to the press on August 31, 2020 by the Rwanda Investigation Bureau after being arrested. PHOTO | POOL


Rwanda's prosecution on Thursday sought maximum prosecution up to life sentence against Paul Rusesabagina, portrayed as a humanitarian activist in the controversial Oscar-nominated film "Hotel Rwanda" for crimes linked to terrorism.

During the court hearing, the prosecution said lenience should not be applied as the accused did not plead guilty. 

Rusesabagina alongside 20 other co-accused, including commander and spokesperson of the rebel group National Liberation Front (FLN) Callixte Nsabimana, are undergoing trial at Rwandan High Court Special Chamber for International and Cross-border Crimes. 

The prosecution on Wednesday asked the court to hand a 25-year prison sentence to Nsabimana for crimes linked to terrorism. He was given a lesser sentence due to the fact that he confessed to the crimes and collaborated with the court by providing a great amount of information during the trial, according to prosecution.

Rusesabagina, 67, faces nine charges, including forming an illegal armed group, financing terror activities, murder as an act of terror, kidnap as an act of terror, arson as an act of terror. 

The prosecution alleged Rusesabagina was behind a series of attacks against unarmed, innocent Rwandan civilians in the south-western districts of Nyaruguru and Nyamagabe between 2018 and 2019. 


The founding president of the Rwandan Movement for Democratic Change and the Party for Democracy (MRCD), which reportedly colluded with its military wing FLN, was made famous by the film "Hotel Rwanda," where he was portrayed to have saved more than 1,000 ethnic Tutsis victims during the 1994 Rwandan Genocide against the Tutsi, which claimed over one million lives mainly ethnic Tutsis. 

However, survivors and experts disputed the authenticity of Rusesabagina's actual role during the genocide.

Until his arrest, Rusesabagina had long been living overseas and was the subject of an international arrest warrant for alleged terrorism, arson, kidnap and murder, perpetrated against civilians on Rwandan territory.