By Ebi Kesiena
A Rwandan court on Monday found Paul Rusesabagina, a one-time hotel Manager portrayed as a hero in a Hollywood film about the 1994 genocide, guilty of being part of a group responsible for terrorist attacks.
Rusesabagina had denied all the accusations levelled on him, stating that he was kidnapped from Dubai earlier in the year to be put on trial.
Since being portrayed by actor Don Cheadle as the hero of the 2004 film ‘Hotel Rwanda’, Rusesabagina emerged as a prominent critic of President Paul Kagame, based in the United States. He had denied all the charges against him, while his supporters called the trial a sham and proof of Kagame’s ruthless treatment of political opponents.
Prosecutors have sought a life sentence on nine charges, including terrorism, arson, taking hostages and forming an armed rebel group which he directed from exile in the United States.
Rusesabagina became a global celebrity after the 2004 film ‘Hotel Rwanda’ depicted him risking his life to shelter hundreds as the boss of a luxury hotel in the Rwandan capital Kigali, during the 100-day genocide when Hutu ethnic extremists killed more than 800,000 people, mostly from the Tutsi minority.
Actor Don Cheadle was nominated for an Oscar for the role. Rusesabagina used his fame to highlight what he described as rights violations by the government of Kagame, a Tutsi rebel commander who took power after his forces captured Kigali and halted the genocide.
Rusesabagina’s trial began in February, six months after he was arrested on arrival in Kigali on a flight from Dubai.
While his supporters say he was kidnapped, the Rwandan government suggested he was tricked into boarding a private plane.
However, Human Rights Watch said at the time that his arrest amounted to an enforced disappearance, which it called a serious violation of international law.