The United States said Thursday it has determined that “Hotel Rwanda” hero Paul Rusesabagina has been “wrongfully detained” by Kigali, who has sentenced him to 25 years in prison.
Rusesabagina, a US permanent resident and a Belgian citizen, has called Rwandan President Paul Kagame a dictator and was sentenced by a court on “terrorism” charges.
“The State Department has determined that Paul Russabagina has been wrongfully detained,” an agency spokesman said.
“The decision took into account the totality of the circumstances, in particular the lack of a fair trial guarantee during their trial,” it said.
The designation required the State Department, which has previously expressed concerns about the case, to work to free him.
Rusesabagina, who was then the Kigali hotel manager, is credited with saving hundreds of lives during the 1994 massacre, and his actions inspired the Hollywood film “Hotel Rwanda”.
He has been behind bars since his arrest in August 2020, when a plane he believed was bound for Burundi landed in Kigali instead.
His family expressed hope in a statement that the position would bring “increasing pressure” from the United States on Rwanda to free him.
“Most importantly, Rusabagina’s health is deteriorating, and his family fears he will die in prison in Rwanda if the United States and others do nothing to free him.”
“He is a 67-year-old cancer survivor who has suffered one or more strokes in recent months,” adding that visitors recently noticed he was experiencing pain in his left arm. were.
Rusesabagina’s family recently filed a $400 million lawsuit in the United States against Kagame, the Rwandan government, and others for alleged kidnapping and torture.
Rusebagina was convicted in September of joining a rebel group blamed for deadly gun, grenade and arson attacks in Rwanda in 2018 and 2019.