On Monday April 4, the Rwandan Court of Appeal upheld the 25-year prison sentence for “terrorism” of opponent Paul Rusesabagina, made famous by the film Rwanda Hotelrejecting the appeal of the prosecution, who wanted a heavier sentence. “Given that he is a first-time offender, the court considers that his sentence should not be increased, because the twenty-five years he has obtained are in line with the weight of his crimes”said Judge François Regis Rukundakuvuga after a day of hearing.
Known to be a virulent opponent of President Paul Kagame, Paul Rusesabagina was sentenced in September 2021 for “to have founded and belong” to the National Liberation Front (FLN), an armed group accused of having carried out deadly attacks in Rwanda in 2018 and 2019. The prosecution, which had requested life imprisonment, had appealed, wishing to see his sentence increased. Prosecutors had also appealed the sentences – from three to 20 years in prison – imposed on his 20 co-defendants.
Paul Rusesabagina, 67, has always denied these accusations and denounced a trial intended to muzzle an opponent. He was not present Monday at the reading of the judgment. His family, who continue to warn about his state of health, announced in mid-January that he “will not participate[it] not to the staging of the appeal of a political prisoner”. The accused and his lawyers had already boycotted the majority of the first instance hearings, denouncing a trial ” Politics “ as well as ill-treatment in detention.
Arrested in murky circumstances
Paul Rusesabagina was made famous by the movie Hotel Rwanda, released in 2004 and which tells how this moderate Hutu who ran the Hotel des Mille Collines in Kigali saved more than 1,000 people during the 1994 genocide, during which 800,000 people were killed, according to the UN, mainly from of the Tutsi minority.
Opponent for more than twenty years to Paul Kagame, whom he accused of authoritarianism and of fueling anti-Hutu sentiment, Paul Rusesabagina used his Hollywood fame to give a global echo to his positions. He had lived since 1996 in exile in the United States and Belgium, before being arrested in Kigali in 2020 in troubled circumstances, when he got off a plane he thought was bound for Burundi.
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