Prosecutors appeal ‘Hotel Rwanda’ hero’s 25-year jail sentence


An appeal has been filed against a court ruling that sentenced “Hotel Rwanda” hero Paul Rusesabagina to 25 years in prison on terrorism charges, Rwandan prosecutors said on Wednesday (Oct. 20).

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

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

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

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.

Mr. 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.

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

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

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

“Twenty-five years is already a life sentence,” his daughter Carine Kanimba told AFP after the prosecution announcement.

“In appealing and asking for more the prosecution is just revealing how political this trial is and always was.”

The Court of Appeal will decide at a later date when to hear the prosecution’s case, a court official told AFP. (Source: CNA)