KIGALI, RWANDA (AP) – Rwanda’s president said 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 on Sunday, did not explain how Paul Rusesabagina (pic right) 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 United States (US) permanent residence permit, turned up in Rwanda last week but suggested that he came of his own accord.
“What if someone told you that he brought himself — even if he may not have intended it? You will be surprised how he got here. He was not kidnapped or hoodwinked. His coming to Rwanda has more to do with himself than anybody else,” said Kagame.
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, said 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”.
“Paul’s wife has called the jail and has not been allowed to talk to him,” it said on Saturday.
The family has said they believe he was “kidnapped” during a visit to Dubai and that he would never knowingly have boarded a plane for Rwanda’s capital, Kigali.
Rusesabagina was awarded the US Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005 for helping to save lives during Rwanda’s genocide in which some 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed.
Rwandan authorities have not publicly shared any international arrest warrant. They have referred to “international cooperation” but given no details.
Rwandan authorities granted what they called an “exclusive” interview with Rusesabagina to a Kenyan newspaper, The East African, in which he said he had been treated with “kindness” while in custody in Rwanda but did not discuss the accusations against him or how he was apprehended.
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.