‘Hotel Rwanda’ hero denied access to lawyer while jailed for terrorism charges

The hero of the film “Hotel Rwanda” is being denied access to a lawyer or visitors one week after being arrested on terrorism charges in the small east African country, The Associated Press reported Saturday.

The Hotel Rwanda Rusesabagina Foundation said Saturday that businessman Paul Rusesabagina, a U.S. permanent resident and Belgian citizen, has had no consular visits. It called the Rwandan government officials claims that they had talked to his sons about a potential visit “not true.”

“Paul’s wife has called the jail and has not been allowed to talk to him,” it added.

The family of Rusesabagina, whose heroism during Rwanda’s 1994 genocide inspired the 2004 film, said they believe he was somehow kidnapped during a visit to Dubai and taken aboard a plane for Rwanda’s capital, Kigali, where he was arrested and paraded in handcuffs.

Rusesabagina, portrayed by Don Cheadle in the film, has lived outside Rwanda since 1996. He has been an outspoken critic of the Rwandan government for decades.

Rusesabagina was awarded the U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005 for saving more than 1,200 people as a hotel manager during Rwanda’s 1994 genocide in which some 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed.

Paul Rusesabagina, Angelina Jolie, JOLIE RUSESABAGINA

Paul Rusesabagina with Angelina Jolie at the premier of “Hotel Rwanda” in 2004.


FILE PHOTO: US President Bush presents Presidential Medal of Freedom to Rusesabagina in Washington

George W. Bush presents his Presidential Medal of Freedom to Paul Rusesabagina in 2005.


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Rwandan authorities have not explained how or where Rusesabagina was arrested but said he must answer charges of serious crimes including terrorism against unarmed civilians, the AP said. Police called him the suspected “founder, leader, sponsor and member of violent, armed, extremist terror outfits including the Rwanda Movement for Democratic Change.”

“There is a deliberate effort to sanitize and present Rusesabagina as a victim,” the state-run Rwandan newspaper The New Times said in an editorial Saturday that rejected allegations he was arrested because of his criticism of the government.

It is not clear when Rusesabagina will appear in court. Rwandan law says a suspect can be in provisional detention for 15 days, renewable for up to 90 days.


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