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‘Hotel Rwanda’ hero, a critic of Rwandan government, arrested on suspicion of terrorism

Paul Rusesabagina at the headquarters of the Rwanda Bureau of Investigations
Paul Rusesabagina appears in front of media at the headquarters of the Rwanda Bureau of Investigations building in Kigali, Rwanda, on Monday.
(Associated Press)

Paul Rusesabagina, who was portrayed in the film “Hotel Rwanda” as a hero who saved the lives of more than 1,200 people during the country’s 1994 genocide, has been arrested by the Rwandan government on suspicion of terrorism, police announced Monday.

A well-known critic of President Paul Kagame, Rusesabagina had been living outside Rwanda since 1996. Police did not say where he was apprehended. He had been living in Belgium and then in Texas.

In handcuffs and a mask, Rusesabagina, 66, was paraded by police before the press in Rwanda’s capital, Kigali. He has not yet been formally charged in court.

“Through international cooperation, the Rwanda Bureau of Investigation wants to inform the general public that Paul Rusesabagina has been arrested,” police said in a statement Monday.

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“Rusesabagina is suspected to be the founder, leader, sponsor and member of violent, armed, extremist terror outfits including the Rwanda Movement for Democratic Change (MRCD) operating out of various places in the region and abroad,” police said.

There was an international arrest warrant for Rusesabagina to answer charges of serious crimes including terrorism, arson, kidnapping and murder, perpetrated against unarmed, innocent Rwandan civilians on Rwandan territory, police said. Police told the media in Kigali that investigations against Rusesabagina would continue and more information would be released about his alleged activities.

Felicien Kabuga had been accused of equipping militias in the genocide that killed more than 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and Hutus who tried to protect them.

Rusesabagina has previously denied the government’s charges that he financially supports rebels in Rwanda.

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He has been a prominent critic of Kagame’s government, calling it a dictatorship and urging Western countries to press the government to respect human rights.

Government supporters reject Rusesabagina’s criticism, saying Kagame supports democracy and economic growth.

Rusesabagina has won numerous international honors, including the United States Presidential Medal of Freedom, awarded by President George W. Bush in 2005.

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Kagame disputes Rusesabagina’s story about saving survivors at a hotel in Kigali during the genocide, in which the ethnic majority Hutus killed more than 800,000 Tutsi and the Hutus who tried to protect them.

“Rusesabagina has been among the most prominent critics of the Rwandan government and an opponent to President Kagame. His arrest will definitely weaken those who oppose Kagame’s leadership,” said Gonza Muganwa, a Rwandan political analyst.

The 2004 film “Hotel Rwanda” depicted Rusesabagina, a Hutu married to a Tutsi, as using his influence as a manager of the Hotel des Mille Collines to allow more than 1,200 Tutsis to shelter in the hotel’s rooms. In the film, Rusesabagina was played by actor Don Cheadle.

Naphtal Ahishakiye, executive secretary of Ibuka, a Rwanda survivors’ organization, said that Rusesabagina’s arrest was good news for survivors of the genocide. Ahishakiye said Rusesabagina had charged people money to be able to shelter in the hotel.


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