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Man who inspired Hotel Rwanda film to be released from prison after ‘unfair’ terror sentence is reduced

After his 25-year sentence was reduced for terror offenses, the former hotel manager will be freed from prison.

Paul Rusesabagina was played by Don Cheadle, a US actor. He was the one who saved the lives of over 1,000 ethnic Tutsis.

For his efforts, the 68-year old received the US presidential Medal of Freedom.

Rusesabagina was a critic of Rwandan President Paul Kagame. He left Rwanda in 1996 to live in Belgium, then in the USA.


He disappeared in 2020 while visiting Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. He was arrested and returned to Rwanda days later.

His family claims that he was kidnapped by his captors and taken to East Africa to face a highly-criticised trial.

Later, he was convicted of eight charges, including being a member of a terrorist organization and murder.

Rusesabagina is a US citizen and Belgian citizen. He claimed that his arrest was due to his criticisms of Kagame for alleged human rights violations.

The government of Mr Kagame has denied that it targets dissenting voices through arrests and extrajudicial executions.

International concern was raised by the circumstances of Mr Rusesabagina’s arrest, his limited access and reported worsening health. The USA and other countries described the case as unfair.

Yolande Makolo, a government spokeswoman, stated that his 25-year sentence was now commuted or reduced by a presidential order following clemency request.

She also stated that Mr Rusesabagina will be released Saturday.

Read More A family of the ‘Hotel Rwanda” hero files a $400m lawsuit regarding his alleged abduction

Image Rusesabagina received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005

Ms Makolo said that Rwanda had taken note of the US government’s constructive role in creating the conditions for dialogue on the issue and the assistance provided by Qatar.

She added that commutation is not an “extinguishing” of a conviction under Rwandan law.

A signed letter addressed to Mr Kagame, dated 14 Oct, was posted online by the justice ministry. Mr Rusesabagina stated that “if I am granted pardon and release, I fully understand that I will spend my remaining days in the United States in silent reflection.”

“I can promise you through this letter that my personal and political ambitions are not a distraction from the mission I have set for myself.” I will not answer any questions about Rwandan politics.”

Human Rights Watch stated that Mr Rusesabagina was “forcibly vanished” and was taken to Rwanda in 2020.

The court ruled that he wasn’t kidnapped after he was tricked to board a chartered flight.

Rwanda’s government claimed that Rusesabagina was going to Burundi to coordinate military operations with groups based in Congo and Rwanda.

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Image Don Cheadle was the actor who played Paul Rusesabagina, in the 2004 movie

Rusesabagina was accused by his political opponent, the Rwandan Movement for Democratic Change, of supporting the armed arm of its opposition platform.

This armed group claimed responsibility for the attacks on southern Rwanda in 2018 and 2019, in which nine Rwandans were killed.

At trial, Mr Rusesabagina stated that he was a member of the armed group formed to aid refugees. However, he said he did not support violence and sought to distance from its deadly attacks.

He claimed that he was also tortured and gagged before being jailed. However, Rwandan authorities deny this.

Antony Blinken, the US secretary of State, met Mr Kagame in Rwanda last year and discussed the matter.

Journalists were told by Mr Blinken that they still believe the trial was unfair.


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