President says detained government critic ‘led himself’ to Rwanda, accuses him of of being a ‘terrorist’ leader.
A court in Kigali has denied bail to Paul Rusesabagina, the polarising hero of the movie Hotel Rwanda, ordering he remains in custody to stand trial for serious charges, including terrorism.
Rusesabagina, whose actions during Rwanda’s 1994 genocide inspired the 2004 Oscar-nominated film, had been living in exile for years and became a high-profile government critic.
But in August, he suddenly appeared in Kigali under arrest under murky circumstances, with his family alleging he was kidnapped abroad and brought back to Rwanda.
He must answer to 13 charges including terrorism, financing and founding armed groups, murder, arson and conspiracy to involve children in armed groups.
The 66-year-old had already been denied bail in a lower court but he appealed the decision, citing poor health.
However, Judge Adolphe Udahemuka said Rusesabagina was receiving fine medical care in Rwanda and deemed he was a flight risk as he holds Belgian citizenship.
Rusesabagina’s lawyer, Emeline Nyembo, said they would begin preparing his legal defence.
“Unfortunately we can’t appeal this ruling. We will continue pushing for his release but now we prepare for the substantive phase of the trial,” Nyembo told reporters after the ruling.
Rusesabagina is credited with sheltering hundreds of Rwandans inside a hotel he managed during the 1994 genocide, in which 800,000 mostly Tutsis but also moderate Hutus were slaughtered.
But in the years after Hollywood made him an international celebrity, a more complex image emerged of the staunch government critic, whose tirades against the regime of long-serving Rwandan President Paul Kagame made him an enemy of the state.
He admitted in court to helping form the National Liberation Front (FLN), an armed movement he previously said sought to liberate Rwanda from Kagame.
The president has been in power since 2000 and is accused by critics of crushing opponents and ruling through fear.
Rusesabagina’s family, who says he would never have returned to Rwanda by his own free will, claim his lawyers were not of his choosing, and have accused his legal team of acting for the state.
“My dad is surrounded by people who want him to fall,” his son Tresor Rusesabagina said on Thursday.
In an interview with The New York Times, Rusesabagina, speaking with Rwandan officials in the room, said he boarded a private jet in Dubai which he thought was taking him to Burundi, but landed in Kigali instead.
Rusesabagina is a cancer survivor and suffers from a heart condition and hypertension, requiring chronic medication, his family have said previously.