Guy Who Inspired Hotel Rwanda Is Back in US With Family

Rwanda convicted Paul Rusesabagina on terrorism charges that were widely considered bogus
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Mar 24, 2023 10:29 AM CDT
Updated Mar 30, 2023 12:34 AM CDT
Guy Who Inspired Hotel Rwanda to Be Freed
In this 2005 file photo, President Bush awards Paul Rusesabagina, who sheltered people at a hotel he managed during the 1994 Rwandan genocide, the Presidential Medal of Freedom Award in the East Room of the White House, in Washington.   (AP Photo/Lawrence Jackson, File)
UPDATE Mar 30, 2023 12:34 AM CDT

The man who inspired the film Hotel Rwanda and was freed by Rwanda last week from a terrorism sentence returned Wednesday to the United States and joined his family after being held for more than two years. Paul Rusesabagina's arrival in San Antonio was announced by his daughter Carine Kanimba, who tweeted that “our family is finally reunited today.” White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan tweeted that “we’re glad to have him back on US soil.”

Mar 24, 2023 10:29 AM CDT

Rwanda's government has commuted the sentence of Paul Rusesabagina, who inspired the film Hotel Rwanda for saving hundreds of countrymen from genocide but was convicted of terrorism offenses years later in a widely criticized trial. Government spokeswoman Yolande Makolo told the AP on Friday that the 25-year sentence was commuted by presidential order after a request for clemency. Rusesabagina, a US resident and Belgian citizen, is expected to be released on Saturday, she said. "Rwanda notes the constructive role of the US government in creating conditions for dialogue on this issue, as well as the facilitation provided by the state of Qatar," Makolo said.

The case had been described by the United States and others as unfair. Rusesabagina disappeared in 2020 during a visit to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates and appeared days later in Rwanda in handcuffs. His family alleged he was kidnapped and taken to Rwanda against his will to stand trial. The Washington Post notes that he was convicted on terrorism charges and sentenced to 25 years; the sentences of 19 others convicted in the same case were also commuted. Rusesabagina has asserted that his arrest was in response to his criticism of longtime Rwandan President Paul Kagame over alleged human rights abuses. Kagame’s government has repeatedly denied targeting dissenting voices with arrests and extrajudicial killings.

(More Rwanda stories.)

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