‘Hotel Rwanda’ hero Paul Rusesabagina arrives in the US
The man who inspired the movie “Hotel Rwanda” and was freed by Rwanda last week following a terrorism conviction returned to the United States on Wednesday, where he will be reunited with his family after more than two years in prison. detention.
Paul Rusesabagina’s return to the United States was announced Wednesday by White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan, who wrote in a tweet that “we are delighted to have him back on American soil.”
White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told journalists on Monday that Rusesabagina was in Doha, Qatar, and would return to the United States. Rusesabagina’s plane landed in Houston this afternoon and the 68-year-old will be traveling next to a military hospital in San Antonio, according to a person familiar with the matter, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal plans. The person said Rusesabagina was on the ground and in a car to be reunited with her family. “We are delighted that he is back on American soil and reunited with family and friends who have been waiting for this day for so long,” said Sullivan. “I am grateful to those with whom we have worked closely within the Government of Rwanda to make this a reality.”
Rusesabagina, a legal resident of the United States and Belgian citizen, is said to have sheltered more than 1,000 ethnic Tutsis at the hotel he managed during the 1994 Rwandan genocide, of which more than 800,000 were. Tutsis and Hutus trying to protect them were killed. He received the Presidential Medal of Freedom of the United States for his efforts.
Rusesabagina disappeared in 2020 during a visit to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates and reappeared a few days later in Rwanda in handcuffs. His family alleges he was kidnapped and taken to Rwanda against his will to stand trial.
In 2021, he was sentenced to 25 years in prison after being convicted in Rwanda on eight counts including joining a terrorist group, murder and kidnapping following a widely criticized trial.
Last week, the Rwandan government reduced his sentence after US diplomatic intervention on his behalf.
Rusesabagina has been accused of supporting the armed wing in his opposition political platform, the Rwanda Movement for Democratic Change. The armed group has claimed some responsibility for attacks in 2018 and 2019 in southern Rwanda in which nine Rwandans were killed.
Rusesabagina testified at the trial that he helped form the armed group to assist refugees but said he never supported violence – and sought to stay away from its deadly attacks.
Rusesabagina has insisted that his arrest was in response to his criticism of longtime President Paul Kagame over allegations of human rights abuses. Kagame’s government has repeatedly denied targeting dissidents with arrests and extrajudicial killings.
Rusesabagina became a public critic of Kagame and left Rwanda in 1996, living first in Belgium and then the United States.
His arrest has caused friction with the US and other countries at a time when the Rwandan government is also under pressure over tensions with neighboring Congo and Britain’s plan to deport asylum seekers to the country. this little family in East Africa.
Human rights activists and others have called on the Rwandan authorities to free him, saying his health is failing.
In October, the ailing Rusesabagina signed a letter to Kagame posted on the Justice Department’s website, stating that if he were pardoned and released to live in America, he would have no personal ambitions or politics and “I will leave questions regarding Rwanda Politics behind me.”
Last year, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Kagame in Rwanda and discussed the incident.
Kirby, a spokesman for the White House National Security Council, has said that Sullivan was personally involved in the case, “really did the heavy lifting to get Paul released and put him on the road. go home.”
Tucker reports from Washington. Associated Press reporter Jake Bleiberg in Dallas contributed reporting.