Paul Rusesabagina was sentenced Monday to 25 years in prison for “terrorism“, at the end of a trial described as”Politics“by his supporters. A judgment that the former director of the Hôtel des Mille Collines probably does not know yet, said his lawyers and his family at a press conference on Tuesday. They plead for a return of Paul Rusesabagina in Belgium.
The man, known to have enabled the rescue of more than a thousand people during the genocide of 1994, has only five minutes of telephone conversation per week, on Fridays. His family was therefore not yet able to know if he was made aware of his conviction, explained one of the accused’s daughters, Carine Kanimba.
“Our husband and father, Paul Rusesabagina, was kidnapped, tortured and held in solitary confinement. He was forced to stand an unfair trial last year. We knew from the day of his kidnapping that the judgment would be guilty on several counts or all of them.“, lamented Roger Rusesabagina, son of the former hotelier whose story inspired the film”Hotel Rwanda“.
The eldest daughter of one who has become a fierce critic of President Paul Kagame, Lys Rusesabagina, has supported her brother’s words and called on the international community to act before it is too late, as has Taciana Rusesabagina, the wife a citizen of Belgian nationality, who is afraid for the state of health of her husband.
The lawyers of Paul Rusesabagina, Mes Peter Choharis, Vincent Lurquin, Philippe Larochelle and Kate Gibson then took the floor. “It has been a year since we have had direct communication with our client, while indirect communication has been made very difficult. There was no confidentiality, professional secrecy or fair trial, the judges did not allow Paul Rusesabagina to be assisted by his international lawyers“, recalled Me Choharis, who nevertheless said to himself”optimistic“from the reactions of the governments of the United States and Belgium, the European Parliament and the United States Congress to the condemnation.
“We have asked from the start to make a transfer, to ensure that we can continue the trial and the investigation here in Belgium. It was the Rwandans who asked us to open this investigation. It is still in progress. Let us make sure to allow Paul Rusesabagina to come to Belgium, to have this legal debate“, pleaded Me Lurquin.
The lawyers also explained that in the event of classic legal proceedings, they would have appealed, but “not having to do with an independent court“They do not yet know what the solution could be. They are nevertheless pursuing several leads outside the Rwandan system and have, for example, lodged a request with the United Nations Special Rapporteur on torture.
The former director of the Hôtel des Mille Collines in Kigali was found guilty “to have founded and belonged“to the National Liberation Front (FLN), a rebel group accused of carrying out deadly attacks in Rwanda in 2018 and 2019. Life imprisonment had been requested against him but the court decided”to reduce his sentence to 25 years“Judge Beatrice Mukamurenzi said, stressing that Mr Rusesabagina”admitted some of the crimes and apologized for it“and that this is his first conviction.