The United States has found that Paul Russabjina, a Belgian-Rwandan best known for the movie “Hotel Rwanda”, is being held “unlawfully” by the Rwandan court. This was stated by a spokesperson for the US State Department on Thursday.
Paul Rusabagina, known for his opposition to Rwandan President Paul Kagame, is serving a 25-year prison sentence for “terrorism”. He was convicted in September last year after a trial described by his relatives as a “show trial”. The Rwandan Court of Appeal upheld the prison sentence in April.
After the first conviction in September, the United States had already expressed concerns about the course of the trial. Meanwhile, the US State Department officially considers him an unlawfully detained person, a ministry spokesperson told AFP.
The US is basing this on a “lack of fair trial guarantees”, it seems. However, Washington makes no comment on Rossapgina’s guilt or innocence.
The decision means that the United States can explicitly request the release of Rossabagina in its contacts with Kigali.
Rusesabagina became famous through the movie Rwanda Hotel From 2004, which tells how the moderate Hutu who ran the Mill Collins Hotel saved more than 1,000 people during the 1994 genocide, killing 800,000 people, mostly from the Tutsi minority, according to the United Nations.
Rossapgina, who has been in opposition to President Paul Kagame for more than 20 years, has used his Hollywood fame to give his views global resonance. He had been living in exile in the United States and Belgium since 1996, before he was arrested under suspicious circumstances in Kigali in August 2020 when he got off a plane believed to be bound for Burundi.