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Rwanda’s president says ‘Hotel Rwanda’ hero must stand trial

Rwanda’s president says that the man portrayed as a hero in the film “Hotel Rwanda” will stand trial for allegedly supporting rebel violence.

President Paul Kagame, appearing on national television Sunday, did not explain how Paul Rusesabagina was brought to Rwanda where he has been held in custody for more than a week.

Rusesabagina is credited with saving 1,200 lives during Rwanda’s 1994 genocide by letting people shelter in the hotel he was managing during the mass killings. Now he is accused of supporting rebel violence in Rwanda and his family and supporters complain that they have not been able to speak to him and that he has not had access to a lawyer.

“Rusesabagina heads a group of terrorists that have killed Rwandans. He will have to pay for these crimes.,” said Kagame on a broadcast in which he was asked questions by some local and foreign journalists and viewers. “Rusesabagina has the blood of Rwandans on his hands.”

He said Rusesabagina’s trial will be held openly and conducted fairly.

“We are obligated to do this,” said Kagame. “We want to do things in a right way.”

Kagame did not explain how Rusesabagina, who had lived outside Rwanda since 1996 and is a citizen of Belgium and has a U.S. permanent residence permit, turned up in Rwanda last week but suggested that he came of his own accord.

Kagame suggested that Rusesabagina was told a story that fit into his expectations and ended up in Rwanda. “There was no kidnap in the process of bringing Rusesabagina here. It was actually flawless!” said Kagame. “When the time comes he will tell the story himself but he led himself here.”

Kagame said others were Rusesabagina’s accomplices in alleged violent activities and have already been arrested and are facing trial in Kigali, Rwanda’s capital.

Rusesabagina’s family and supporters, however, say Rwandan authorities have denied him access to a lawyer nearly a week after the outspoken government critic was paraded in handcuffs and accused of terrorism.

The Hotel Rwanda Rusesabagina Foundation said Rusesabagina has had no consular visits, and it rejected the Rwandan government’s claim that it had talked to his sons about a potential visit as “not true.”

It is not clear when Rusesabagina will appear in court. Rwandan law says a suspect can be in provisional detention for 15 days, renewable for up to 90 days.

The Rwandan government has said it issued an arrest warrant for Rusesabagina to answer charges of serious crimes including terrorism, arson, kidnap, and murder perpetrated against unarmed civilians. Police called him the suspected “founder, leader, sponsor and member of violent, armed, extremist terror outfits including the Rwanda Movement for Democratic Change.”

Rwanda points to a video posted online in 2018 in which Rusesabagina says “it is imperative that in 2019 we speed up the liberation struggle of the Rwandan people … the time has come for us to use any means possible to bring about change in Rwanda, as all political means have been tried and failed.”

Rusesabagina in the past has denied the charges that he financially supports Rwandan rebels, saying he is being targeted for criticizing the Kagame government over human rights abuses.

Rusesabagina’s detention has prompted concern among human rights activists that this was the latest example of the Rwandan government targeting critics beyond its borders.

The U.S. government has said it expects the Rwandan government to provide “humane treatment, adhere to the rule of law and provide a fair and transparent legal process” for Rusesabagina.

Actor Don Cheadle, who played Rusesabagina in the film, told the AP “it is my sincere hope that Paul is being treated humanely and fairly, and that a transparent and just legal process designed to reveal the veracity of these charges is advanced in a timely manner.”

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