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'Hotel Rwanda' inspiration Paul Rusesabagina arrested

September 1, 2020

Rusesabagina's role in saving refugees during the 1994 genocide inspired an Oscar-nominated film. His relatives say he was "kidnapped and taken by extraordinary rendition to Rwanda" for his criticism of the government.

Rwanda Kigali Paul Rusesabagina following arrest
Paul Rusesabagina wearing a maskImage: picture-alliance/AP Photo

Paul Rusesabagina — the man who was hailed a hero in a Hollywood movie about the country's 1994 genocide — has been arrested on charges of terrorism, Rwandan investigators said on Monday.

Two police officers brought Rusesabagina, 66, to the headquarters of the Rwanda Investigations Bureau. It was not immediately clear where Rusesabagina was arrested, as he had been living in Belgium and then in the US state of Texas. 

However, his relatives later said he had been in Dubai when authorities seized him.

"He was kidnapped and taken by extraordinary rendition to Rwanda," said his daughter Carine Kanimba in a Facebook post on Tuesday.

Rusesabagina, who wore a face mask and was in handcuffs, did not speak upon arriving at the bureau. He has in the past said he is the victim of a smear campaign in Rwanda, particularly after voicing his dissent with the government in the landlocked African country.

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President Paul Kagame marked two decades of rule in Rwanda earlier this year. While praised by some as a pioneer for women's rights and environmentalism, Kagame has been criticized by others, including Rusesabagina, for his iron grip on power.

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Suspected links to terrorism, not yet formally charged

The 66-year-old activist has not, however, been formally charged in court.

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"Rusesabagina is suspected of being a founder or a leader or sponsor or member of violent armed extremist terror outfits ... operating out of various places in the region and abroad," the investigation bureau's spokesman, Thierry Murangira, told reporters.

Film scene - Hotel Rwanda
Scene from the film Hotel RwandaImage: picture-alliance/Mary Evans Picture Library

The spokesman said Rusesabagina would face several charges, such as "terrorism, financing terrorism ... arson, kidnap and murder" relating to incidents against his own countrymen on Rwandan soil in June and December 2018.

Authorities did not immediately release further information about the charges against Rusesabagina, but said further details would be made available in the coming days.

Genocide portrayed in Oscar nominated movie

During the 1994 genocide, as manager of the Hotel des Diplomates in the Rwandan capital of Kigali, Rusesabagina used his influence and connections to shelter 1,268 Tutsis and moderate Hutus from being slaughtered by the Interahamwe militia.

His actions were subsequently portrayed in the 2004 acclaimed film "Hotel Rwanda," where he was played by the American actor Don Cheadle.

jsi/rs (AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa)