‘Hotel Rwanda’ hero protests in courtroom ahead of trial
KIGALI, Rwanda (AP) — The man who inspired the film “Hotel Rwanda” on Friday protested his looming trial on terror charges, saying he doesn’t expect justice after his request to postpone the trial was rejected.
“Because you have denied me my basic rights to fair trial, I hereby declare that I don’t expect justice in this court and I’ll not return to this court,” Paul Rusesabagina told the special chamber of the High Court that is hearing his case.
Rusesabagina’s attorney, Felix Rudakemwa, had asked for six months before the start of the trial in order to prepare his defense. He said Rusesabagina’s legal papers had been confiscated by prison authorities.
The 66-year-old Rusesabagina, once praised for saving hundreds of ethnic Tutsis from Rwanda’s 1994 genocide as a hotel manager, faces nine charges. They include the formation of an irregular armed group, membership in a terrorist group, financing terrorism, as well as murder, abduction, and armed robbery as an act of terrorism.
Rusesabagina is detained in the Rwandan capital, Kigali.
Earlier this week the court ruled that Rusesabagina was not kidnapped when he was tricked into boarding a chartered flight from Dubai to Rwanda, clearing the way for his trial to start.
He disappeared in August during a visit to Dubai and was paraded in handcuffs days later in Rwanda. An attorney for Rusesabagina argued in a pre-trial hearing last week that his client should be freed because he had been kidnapped in a process that violated the law.
Rwanda’s government has alleged that Rusesabagina was going to Burundi to coordinate with armed groups based there and across the border in Congo.
A pastor who is a state witness told the court last week that he worked with the Rwanda Investigation Bureau to trick Rusesabagina onto a private plane that he believed was going to neighboring Burundi. The pastor, Constantin Niyomwungere, alleged that Rusesabagina had acknowledged that rebels backed by his opposition platform had killed Rwandans.
“Myself, the pilot and cabin crew knew we were coming to (the Rwandan capital) Kigali. The only person who didn’t know where we were headed was Paul,” Niyomwungere said.
The case of Rusesabagina, a Belgian citizen and U.S. resident who is an outspoken critic of longtime Rwandan President Paul Kagame, has drawn international concern.
His family says the case against Rusesabagina is politically motivated and that hw has no chance at a fair trial because of his outspoken criticism of Kagame and human rights abuses. They also fear he might die from poor health behind bars.
Rusesabagina could face more than 20 years in prison if convicted.