Prosecutors appeal after 'Hotel Rwanda' hero Paul Rusesabagina jailed

accreditation
0:00
play article
Subscribers can listen to this article
Paul Rusesabagina.
Paul Rusesabagina.
Stephen Shugerman/Getty Images
  • Prosecutors have filed an appeal against a court ruling that sentenced the "Hotel Rwanda" hero to prison on terrorism charges.
  • Paul Rusesabagina was convicted and sentenced on 20 September.
  • He is a staunch critic of President Paul Kagame.


Rwandan prosecutors said Wednesday they have filed an appeal against a court ruling that sentenced "Hotel Rwanda" hero Paul Rusesabagina to 25 years in prison on terrorism charges.

The National Public Prosecution Authority is appealing the judgements against Rusesabagina, a staunch critic of President Paul Kagame, and 20 co-defendants, spokesperson Faustin Nkusi told AFP.

Rusesabagina, 67, and his fellow accused were convicted and sentenced on 20 September after a trial that rights groups and his supporters had branded a sham.

It was not clear whether prosecutors were appealing the sentence itself or the wider ruling.

But chief prosecutor Aimable Havugiyaremye had told reporters at the time that the prosecution was "not happy with the verdict because all the accused got lesser sentences than what the prosecutors had prescribed".

Prosecutors had sought a sentence of life in prison for Rusesabagina, the former Kigali hotel manager who was accused of backing a rebel group blamed for a spate of attacks in Rwanda in 2018 and 2019.

Rusesabagina has been credited with saving over 1 200 lives during the country's 1994 genocide, and his actions inspired the Hollywood film Hotel Rwanda.

He later used his fame to denounce rebel leader turned president Kagame as a dictator, and left Rwanda in 1996, living in Belgium and then the United States.

Paul Kagame.

He has been behind bars since his arrest in August 2020 when a plane he believed was bound for Burundi landed instead in Kigali.

His family say Rusesabagina was kidnapped and have rejected the nine charges against him as payback by a vengeful government for his outspoken views against Kagame.

Death sentence

Neither he nor his lawyers were in court for September's verdict in September, which saw his co-defendants receive sentences ranging between three and 20 years.

The United States and Belgium both voiced concern that Rusesabagina had been denied a fair trial.

His daughter Carine Kanimba said after the ruling that his advanced age made the punishment "equivalent to a death sentence".

"We fear that my father will be killed in prison," she said.

Kagame's government accused Rusesabagina of belonging to the National Liberation Front (FLN), a rebel group blamed for attacks in 2018 and 2019 that killed nine people.

He denied any involvement in the attacks, but was a founder of the Rwandan Movement for Democratic Change (MRCD), an opposition group of which the FLN is seen as the armed wing.

Kagame had dismissed criticism of the case, saying that Rusesabagina had been in the dock not because of his fame but over the lives lost "because of his actions".

The Court of Appeal will decide at a later date when to hear the prosecution's appeal, a court official told AFP.

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For only R75 per month, you have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today.
Subscribe to News24
Lockdown For
DAYS
HRS
MINS
Voting Booth
President Ramaphosa has punted the idea of mandatory Covid-19 vaccinations for South Africans. This is:
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Results
The right thing to do. We desperately need more South Africans vaccinated to prevent further mutations and restore normality in our lives.
71% - 9240 votes
A risky strategy. Compulsory vaccinations may have unintended consequences and damage our rollout campaign.
29% - 3705 votes
Vote
Rand - Dollar
16.14
-1.3%
Rand - Pound
21.36
-0.4%
Rand - Euro
18.26
-0.4%
Rand - Aus dollar
11.30
-0.5%
Rand - Yen
0.14
-0.4%
Gold
1,783.48
0.0%
Silver
22.55
0.0%
Palladium
1,816.00
0.0%
Platinum
936.31
0.0%
Brent Crude
69.88
+0.3%
Top 40
64,307
-0.4%
All Share
70,808
-0.3%
Resource 10
66,503
-1.6%
Industrial 25
93,791
+0.1%
Financial 15
13,982
+0.7%
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes Iress logo
Editorial feedback and complaints

Contact the public editor with feedback for our journalists, complaints, queries or suggestions about articles on News24.

LEARN MORE