Paul Rusesabagina, made famous by the film Hotel Rwanda which told the story of him rescuing hundred of people during the 1994 Rwandan genocide, was found guilty by a court in Rwanda on Monday (Sept. 20) on terrorism charges and sentenced to 25 years in prison, The New York Times reported.
From exile in Belgium, he led a political opposition that had an armed wing named the National Liberation Front (FLN), according to the BBC. Rusesabagina called for regime change in a 2018 video message, saying that “the time has come for us to use any means possible to bring about change in Rwanda."
FLN had allegedly carried out attacks that year that killed nine people. Rusesabagina admitted to financially supporting the group but denied involvement in targeting civilians.
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"The court also finds that they were in this group very aware that they were committing terror acts, they wanted the terror acts committed and this is evidenced by the work that they committed while in that political party. They formed FLN which is an illegal armed group, which attacked Rwanda in 2018 and 2019 and even after that they bragged about it in different announcements and videos," the judge said, according to CNN.
After the Rwandan genocide, Rusesabagina gradually became a public critic of the country’s president Paul Kagame, according to the Times. In response, Kagame accused Rusesabagina of making money from false stories of his heroism and plotting to overthrow the government.
In 1994, Rusesabagina managed a luxury hotel in the capital city Kigali when ethnic Hutus went on a rampage and slaughtered an estimated 800,000 ethnic Tutsis. He turned the hotel into a refuge for Tutsis and moderate Hutus, saving more than 1,200 lives. The story was depicted in the 2004 film Hotel Rwanda, with actor Don Cheadle, portrating Rusesabagina
President George W. Bush presented Rusesabagina with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005. The medal is awarded to those who have made contributions to national security, world peace or culture.