Hotel Rwanda hero ‘aided terrorism’

Prosecutor says man who saved hundreds from genocide in actions depicted in film Hotel Rwanda funded outlawed groups.

Rusesabagina, right, has denied the allegations [EPA]

A senior Rwandan prosecutor is considering bringing charges of terrorism against a former manager of a hotel in Rwanda who saved hundreds of people from the 1994 genocide.

Martin Ngoga said on Tuesday that Paul Rusesabagina, whose actions are depicted in the Oscar-nominated film Hotel Rwanda, had helped finance what he described as terrorist activities in Rwanda by helping fund commanders with the FDLR, or Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda.

Rusesabagina has denied the allegations, telling Al Jazeera on Thursday that it was “simply a smear campaign” against him by the government that dates from the film’s release six years ago. He said that he had not sent any money to Rwanda in years.

Hotel Rwanda [the film] was creating another hero that the Rwandan government did not want,” he said.

“From that day on, the president started calling me a Hollywood-made hero, fabricated hero. He started calling me a thief, stealing with the foreign powers.”

The government, he said, was launching a smear campaign against him because he has in the past opposed Paul Kagame, the Rwandan president.

The FDLR is based in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Rwanda’s neighbour, and is made up of Hutus known as the Interahamwe, who are blamed for massacring up to 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus in a spate of frenzied killings that lasted 100 days.

Rwanda has detained some of the FDLR commanders, but it is not clear how they have been allegedly receiving funds from Rusesabagina.

No formal charges have been filed yet, but Ngoga said he was asking US officials for assistance in gathering evidence against Rusesabagina.

“Those who want to continue considering him as a hero can go on,” Ngoga told a news conference.

“We consider him a serious criminal suspect who has been financing FDLR and we are challenging whoever speaks on his behalf to tell us whether he never sent money to these FDLR commanders we have in custody.”

Ngoga said some of the financial transactions originated in San Antonio, Texas, where Rusesabagina has a house.

Presidential medal

After his story was publicised in Hotel Rwanda, Rusesabagina was hailed as a hero around the world.

George W Bush, the former US president, awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005, the highest civilian honour in the US.

According to Terry George, the director of Hotel Rwanda, Kagame described Rusesabagina as a “manufactured hero” after he criticised the president’s regime.

Rusesabagina, 56, who was released from a hospital operation last week to find that his home in Brussels, Belgium had been broken into and documents stolen, says he has done nothing wrong.

“It is the latest step in a campaign against me by the Rwandan government that has included public insults, lies and physical harassment,” he said.

“My foundation is advocating for a truth, justice and reconciliation process to try to foster sustainable peace in Rwanda … but anyone who opposes Kagame inside or outside the country is treated with this kind of harassment.”

Kagame, an ethnic Tutsi who won re-election in August, has tried to downplay the role of ethnicity in post-genocide Rwanda, and people in the country rarely refer to themselves as Hutu or Tutsi and can face charges for speaking publicly about ethnicity.

But human rights groups accuse his administration of iron-fisted control and of silencing opposition politicians and media outlets.

The accusations against Rusesabagina came days after Rwandan authorities arrested Victoire Ingabire, the leader of the unregistered United Democratic Forces.

Ingabire, who has been under judicial control since April and was barred from the August election, has been detained in connection with an alleged plot to form a “terrorist group”.

Earlier this year, Ingabire sought representation by Peter Erlinder, a US lawyer who was jailed by Rwandan authorities for about three weeks when he arrived in Rwanda in May to meet the politician.

Source : News Agencies

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