Kagame looking at ‘resolving’ detention of ‘Hotel Rwanda’ hero Rusesabagina
FILE PHOTO: Rwandan President Paul Kagame addresses a news conference to conclude the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Kigali, Rwanda June 25, 2022. REUTERS/Jean Bizimana
NAIROBI (Reuters) – Rwandan President Paul Kagame on Monday said there were discussions about “resolving” the fate of Paul Rusesabagina, who was portrayed as a hero in the Hollywood film “Hotel Rwanda” and is serving a 25-year sentence in Rwanda on terrorism charges.
Rusesabagina was sentenced in September 2021 over his ties to an organization opposed to Kagame’s rule. He denied all the charges and refused to take part in the trial that he and his supporters called a political sham.
Washington has designated him as “wrongly detained”, partly because of what it called the lack of fair trial guarantees. Rusesabagina has U.S. permanent residency rights.
Kagame has said his country would not be bullied over Rusesabagina, but on Monday appeared to suggest that there was room for compromise.
“We don’t get stuck with our past. We move into the future,” Kagame said during a video interview at the Global Security Forum.
“So there is discussion, there is looking at all possible ways of resolving that issue without compromising the most fundamental aspects of that case.”
In August U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he had raised his concerns with Kagame over the trial. Rwanda has said the trial was lawful.
Rusesabagina was feted around the world after being played by actor Don Cheadle in the 2004 film “Hotel Rwanda”. The movie portrayed him as a hero who risked his life to shelter hundreds of people as manager of a luxury hotel during the 1994 Rwandan genocide.
Rusesabagina, a vocal critic of Kagame, acknowledged having a leadership role in the opposition group but denied responsibility for attacks carried out by its armed wing. The trial judges said the two were indistinguishable.
Rights groups say Rusesabagina’s jailing is an example of Kagame using authoritarian tactics to crush political opposition and extend his more than two decades in power, allegations the president denies.