Prosecutor Seeks Life Sentence For Man Thought To Be Hero Depicted In ‘Hotel Rwanda’

Prosecutor Seeks Life Sentence For Man Thought To Be Hero Depicted In ‘Hotel Rwanda’

Hotel Rwanda

FILE - In this Monday, Sept. 14, 2020 file photo, Paul Rusesabagina, center, whose story inspired the film "Hotel Rwanda" for saving people from genocide, appears at the Kicukiro Primary Court in the capital Kigali, Rwanda. Rwandan prosecutors on Thursday June 17, 2021, requested a life sentence for the man who inspired the film "Hotel Rwanda" as he faces terrorism charges, while his family asserts that he faces mistreatment and an unfair trial. (AP Photo/File)

Rwandan prosecutors are seeking a life sentence for a man charged with terrorism who is thought to be the hero in the Oscar-nominated movie “Hotel Rwanda”, but his family claims that he is being prosecuted for criticizing President Paul Kagame.

As a hotel manager, Paul Rusesabagina was once praised for saving hundreds of ethnic Tutsis during Rwanda’s 1994 genocide. Now 66, Rusesabagina is being tried on terrorism charges in the East African country.

The prosecution argued during a court hearing this week that the accused should not be treated leniently since he did not plead guilty during the trial and should be given a full life sentence.

Rusesabagina, who is now a Belgian citizen and a permanent resident of the U.S., was arrested in August and charged with nine offenses including murder and forming an armed group accused of staging deadly attacks in Rwanda in 2018 and 2019.

The nine charges include the formation of an irregular armed group, membership in a terrorist group and financing terrorism.

Rusesabagina denied the charges, arguing that his case is politically motivated in response to his criticism of Rwanda’s long-time President Kagame.

He had travelled from his home in San Antonio, Texas, to join a pastor who he says invited him to speak at churches in Burundi, Rwanda’s neighbour.

The pastor was working as an agent for Rwanda’s government and had been part of a plan to lure Rusesabagina out of the U.S. and to the African country.

Rwandan authorities said Rusesabagina was going to Burundi to meet with rebel groups based there and in the bordering Congo.

Rusesabagina’s acts of heroism were depicted in the 2004 Hollywood movie “Hotel Rwanda,” starring Don Cheadle. Some survivors and experts, however, disputed the authenticity of Rusesabagina’s actual role during the genocide.

He has claimed that he is being brutally tortured at a secret state torture chamber.

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