'Hotel Rwanda' hero says he was duped into coming to Rwanda, NYT reports


  • World
  • Friday, 18 Sep 2020

FILE PHOTO: Paul Rusesabagina, the man who was hailed a hero in a Hollywood movie about the country's 1994 genocide is detained and paraded in front of media in handcuffs at the headquarters of Rwanda Investigation Bureau in Kigali, Rwanda August 31, 2020. REUTERS/Clement Uwiringiyimana

KIGALI (Reuters) - Paul Rusesabagina, depicted in a Hollywood movie as a hero who helped save Tutsis during the Rwandan genocide, said he believed he was flying to Burundi at the invitation of a pastor, but was instead lured to Rwanda and arrested on terrorism charges.

Rusesabagina was speaking to the New York Times in an interview the paper said had been authorised by the Rwandan government and had taken place in the presence of government officials.

The 66-year-old political dissident and former hotel manager was propelled to fame after the Oscar-nominated film "Hotel Rwanda" portrayed him using his connections with the Hutu elite to protect Tutsis fleeing slaughter during the 1994 genocide.

He had been living in exile for more than a decade, where he was a prominent critic of President Paul Kagame, accusing him of stifling political opposition.

Rusesabagina suddenly appeared in custody in Rwanda earlier this month, prompting accusations from his family that he had been kidnapped. But he says he voluntarily boarded a private plane in Dubai that he believed was bound for Bujumbura, Burundi, where he had planned to speak to churches at the invitation of a local pastor.

Instead, he landed in Kigali, where he now faces 13 charges, including terrorism, complicity in murder and forming or joining an irregular armed group.

A spokesman for the prosecution on Wednesday told Reuters that Rusesabagina, who once called for armed resistance to the government in a YouTube video, faces a possible life sentence.

He was denied bail on Thursday and will stay in jail for 30 days as the prosecution ends its investigations.

(Editing by Katharine Houreld and Gareth Jones)

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