Hotel Rwanda ‘hero’ goes on trial amid global calls for release

KIGALI (AFP) – Paul Rusesabagina, the polarising hero of the hit movie Hotel Rwanda, went on trial on Wednesday on charges including terrorism that drew international calls for his release.

Rusesabagina, whose actions during Rwanda’s 1994 genocide inspired the movie, had been living abroad for years before appearing in Kigali under arrest in mysterious circumstances in October.

His family and lawyers said he was abducted overseas and brought back to Rwanda illegally. They say that as he is an outspoken government critic, he cannot receive a fair trial there and that he has not been allowed to meet with international lawyers.

The former hotelier, who was played by American actor Don Cheadle in the 2004 film, has been charged with 13 offences including terrorism for starting an armed group in recent years that is accused of staging deadly attacks within Rwanda.

He appeared in court alongside 20 others facing similar charges for supporting the banned outfit, the National Liberation Front (FLN).

The accused all wore face masks and the pink standard-issue uniforms assigned to defendants in Rwanda.

Paul Rusesabagina wears a pink prison uniform as he appears for a bail hearing at a court in the capital Kigali. PHOTO: AP