Blinken Says Raised Concerns Over Unfair Trial of 'Hotel Rwanda' Hero During Visit
© AFP 2022 / FRAZER HARRISONBEVERLY HILLS, CA - JANUARY 12: Paul Rusesabagina, whose life story is based on "Hotel Rwanda" arrives at the V-Life Oscar Party at Hillhaven Lodge on January 12, 2005 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Paul Rusesabagina (Photo by Frazer Harrison / Getty Images North America / Getty Images via AFP)
WASHINGTON (Sputnik) – US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Thursday he raised concerns about the lack of fair trial guarantees for jailed politician Paul Rusesabagina during his visit to Rwanda.
"We have been clear about our concerns related to Paul Rusesabagina’s trial and conviction particularly the lack of fair trial guarantees," Blinken said at a joint press conference, noting that he had discussed the matter with Rwandan President Paul Kagame earlier in the morning. "We continue to urge the government to address concerns about the legal protections afforded to him in this case and establish safeguards to prevent similar outcomes in the future."
Blinken added that he spoke with Rusesabagina’s family a few days ago and would maintain contact with them. The 67-year-old political dissident is serving a 25-year sentence for terrorism offenses.
In response, Kagame said that Rusesabagina was a Rwandan citizen as far as the Rwandan government was concerned and had been lawfully convicted of serious crimes according to both Rwandan and international law. "Rwanda will continue to abide by decisions made by our judiciary," he said, adding that other states should respect his country's sovereignty and laws.
20 September 2021, 10:16 GMT
Rusesabagina, who has been a staunch critic of the current Rwandan government, is said to have offered shelter to 1,200 Rwandans at Kigali’s Mille Collines hotel in 1994 amid the genocide that left an estimated 800,000 people dead.
The event was adapted into a 2004 film that went on to receive nominations for three Academy Awards. US President George W. Bush awarded Rusesabagina the Presidential Medal for Freedom in 2005.
Rusesabagina, a Belgian citizen and a US permanent resident, had been living in exile since 1996. During a visit to Dubai in 2020, he was flown back to Rwanda. In 2021, he was sentenced to 25 years in prison over his links to a violent Rwandese militant group.
Rwandan prosecutors argued that Rusesabagina went on to lead an opposition coalition in exile in 2009, whose armed wing, the National Liberation Front, carried out attacks on civilians in 2018 and 2019, killing nine people, including two teenagers of 13 and 17. Rusesabagina made public calls in support of the group and reportedly admitted sending it money.