Rwandan prosecutors to appeal verdict for 'Hotel Rwanda' hero


FILE PHOTO: Paul Rusesabagina, portrayed as a hero in a Hollywood movie about Rwanda's 1994 genocide, is escorted in handcuffs from the courtroom in Kigali, Rwanda September 25, 2020. REUTERS/Clement Uwiringiyimana/File Photo

KIGALI (Reuters) - Rwandan prosecutors said on Wednesday they would appeal against a 25-year jail sentence handed to Paul Rusesabagina, a one-time hotel manager portrayed as a hero in a Hollywood film about the 1994 genocide.

The prosecutors had sought a life sentence for Rusesabagina, 67, a vocal critic of President Paul Kagame. A Rwandan court found him guilty of terrorism charges on Sept 20 after a trial that his supporters branded a sham, and proof of Kagame's ruthless treatment of political opponents.

A statement tweeted by the Prosecutor General's office did not say why it was making the appeal. Neither the Prosecutor General's office nor the Rwandan government could immediately be reached for comment on the matter.

Rusesabagina's daughter Carine Kanimba, contacted by Reuters after the Prosecutor General's tweet, said the move showed that the trial of her father was politically motivated.

"The prosecution’s decision to appeal is Kagame's decision to hurt us even more than he already has," she said in a Whatsapp message.

Kanimba also quoted what she said was a statement from Rusesabagina's legal team that said "25 years is already a life sentence. In appealing and asking for more, the Prosecution is just revealing how political this trial is and always was".

Prosecutors had sought a life sentence for Rusesabagina on nine charges, including terrorism, arson, taking hostages and forming an armed rebel group. He was convicted of eight charges.

He has acknowledged having a leadership role in the Rwanda Movement for Democratic Change (MRCD), a group opposed to Kagame's rule, but denied responsibility for violence carried out by its armed wing, the National Liberation Front (FLN).

Rusesabagina became a global celebrity after the 2004 film "Hotel Rwanda" depicted him risking his life to shelter hundreds as the boss of a luxury hotel in the Rwandan capital , during the 100-day genocide when Hutu ethnic extremists killed more than 800,000 people, mostly from the Tutsi minority.

(Reporting by Clement Uwiringiyimana; Editing by Ayenat Mersie and Gareth Jones)

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