His chair remained empty, as it has since the beginning of his appeal. But Paul Rusesabagina – who had already boycotted most of the trial from the beginning, was sentenced to 25 years in prison for committing terrorism. His his sentence was reconfirmed after an appeal hearing on 4 April.
The prosecution, which had asked for life imprisonment, called to have his sentence increased. But the judge presiding over the hearing disagreed. “Given that Paul Rusesabagina is a first-time offender, the court feels that his sentence should not be increased because the 25 years he got are in line with the weight of his crimes and the court maintains his sentence,” said Judge François-Regis Rukundakuvuga at the end of a day-long hearing.
The prosecutor’s office had also appealed against the sentences – ranging from three to 20 years in prison – handed down to the other 20 co-accused people.
Former director of the Hotel des Mille Collines, who was propelled to the rank of “hero” thanks to the film Hotel Rwanda, grossly exaggerated his role in protecting nearly 1,300 Tutsis, said Rusesabagina’s detractors.
Following the end of the civil war, Rusesabagina had become one of President Paul Kagame’s main opponents in exile.
In exile between the US and Belgium since 1996, he was arrested at the end of August 2020 under murky circumstances that have been denounced by his family. Rusesabagina was accused of several acts related to “terrorism.” Co-founder of the Mouvement Rwandais pour le Changement Démocratique (MRCD), which was created in 2017, he was on trial for acts committed by the Forces de Libération Nationale (FLN), the armed wing of the MRCD, which claimed responsibility for several attacks in late 2018.
67-year-old Rusesabagina and his family have always denied these accusations and denounced a trial designed to muzzle an opponent. His family, who have constantly worried about his health, announced in mid-January that he would “not be participating in the staged appeal of a political prisoner.”
Callixte Nsabimana, former FLN commander and spokesman, was also tried on appeal and sentenced to 15 years in prison. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison in the first trial. Herman Nsengimana, another FLN spokesperson, was sentenced to seven years in prison, two more than in the first trial.
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