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Friday, December 4, 2020

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Hotel Rwanda hero charged, declines to plead to terrorism charges

A Rwandan court on Monday charged Paul Rusesabagina, whose story inspired the film “Hotel Rwanda,” with terrorism, complicity in murder, and forming an armed rebel group.

Rusesabagina, credited with saving more than 1,000 lives during the 1994 genocide, appeared in court for the first time since being paraded in Kigali in handcuffs on August 31. In all, he faces 12 charges.

Rusesabagina, 66, appeared in handcuffs in Kagarama Court in the capital for a pre-trial hearing, in which the prosecution requested court permission to continue detaining him until investigations are completed.

He declined to plead to all the 13 charges facing him, demanding he be allowed to plead to each separate count.

Rusesabagina told the court he had contributed 20,000 euros to the FLN, a militant wing of one of the leading opposition groups, and apologized for any wrongdoing that may have been caused by the movement.

Rusesabagina was represented by Rwandan lawyers David Rugaza and Emeline Nyembo, whom his family outside Rwanda have disowned, describing them as state-imposed lawyers.

Neither his lawyers nor the prosecution explained the circumstances under which Rusesabagina arrived in Kigali last week from Dubai. The Rwandan court said the suspect was arrested at Kigali International Airport, contradicting the earlier police version that he was arrested through “international cooperation.”

Rusesabagina’s daughter Carine Kanimba told The Associated Press that the family was not even aware he was to appear to court Monday as the state-appointed lawyers didn’t inform them. She said they learned of the court hearing through the media.

“This is a travesty of justice,” Kanimba said of the hearing. Speaking on the phone from Belgium, she said her father was the victim of an abduction, disappearance, and extraordinary rendition from Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates to Kigali, Rwanda.

Rusesabagina holds Belgian citizenship and is a resident of the U.S.

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