Reacting to accusations of kidnapping Hotel Rwanda hero Paul Rusesabagina, Rwandan President Paul Kagame on Sunday denied the charge and said the former was tricked into travelling to Rwanda instead.
Rusesabagina, whose widely acclaimed heroism inspired the Hollywood movie, has been detained on terrorism and other charges.
At a virtual news conference in the capital, Kigali, President Kagame said “it was not the case,” referring to accusations of kidnapping.
“There was no kidnap. There was no any wrongdoing in the process of his getting here. He got here on the basis of what he believed and wanted to do, and he found himself here … that’s how it happened.”
Kagame did not say exactly how Rusesabagina had been taken into custody but suggested he had been tricked into travelling to Rwanda before he was arrested.
Kigali police authorities announced Rusasebagina’s detention on Aug 31, parading him before the press in handcuffs.
The country’s criminal investigations agency, the Rwanda Investigation Bureau (RIB), has said Rusesabagina will face charges including terrorism, financing terrorism, arson, kidnap and murder.
The Rwandan government has accused Rusesabagina of having a hand in alleged attacks by National Liberation Front (FLN) rebels in southern Rwanda along the border with Burundi in 2018.
A former hotel manager during Rwanda’s 1994 genocide, Rusesabagina used his job and his connections with the ethnic Hutu elite to protect Tutsis fleeing the slaughter.
His heroism inspired the Oscar-nominated film Hotel Rwanda, in which he was played by actor Don Cheadle.
Rusesabagina left Rwanda shortly after the genocide and later acquired Belgian citizenship. He has been living in Texas.
His relatives have accused the Rwandan government of kidnapping him and a daughter has said Rusesabagina last called them while in Dubai, days before Kigali announced his detention.
Rusesabagina has been a strong critic of Kagame’s government, whose credit for returning the country to stability after the genocide and boosting economic growth, has been tainted by accusations of widespread repression.
An official in the United Arab Emirates has told Reuters that Rusesabagina was not kidnapped.
On Thursday, US Assistant Secretary for African Affairs Tibor Nagy tweeted that Washington expected Kigali “to provide humane treatment, adhere to the rule of law and provide a fair and transparent legal process.” (Source: CNA)