Hotel Rwanda ‘hero’ sues firm for ‘aiding kidnap’

Friday, December 18th, 2020 00:00 |
Rwandan President Paul Kagame (C) speaks during the launch of the African basketball festival in Kigali, capital of Rwanda, Feb. 20, 2020. (Xinhua/Cyril Ndegeya)

Kigali, Thursday

The man portrayed as a hero in a Hollywood movie about the Rwandan genocide, Hotel Rwanda, says he is suing a Greek charter flight company for aiding his alleged kidnap.

Paul Rusesabagina says that in August he intended to visit Burundi but after he boarded a private flight in Dubai he was instead flown to Rwanda.

He was arrested for leading “terrorist movements”, Rwandan officials said at the time.

His lawyers denied the charges.

An ethnic Hutu, Rusesabagina became well known after the 2004 film Hotel Rwanda depicted his efforts a decade earlier during the genocide to save hundreds of Tutsis at a hotel where he was a manager.

He is a fierce critic of President Paul Kagame and is the leader of the opposition MRCD group.

It is said to have an armed wing, the National Liberation Front (FLN), which stages attacks on Rwanda.

He had been living in exile and has Belgian citizenship and a US green card. But he says he was tricked by a pastor into taking a trip to Burundi for speaking engagements.

Denied charges

Rwanda has charged him with terrorism, financing terrorism, recruiting child soldiers, kidnapping, arson, and forming terror groups.

In September, a Rwandan court heard allegations that the FLN had received help from Zambia’s President Edgar Lungu because of his close friendship with Rusesabagina.

His lawyers denied the charges against him and Lungu’s spokesman denied the allegation in a BBC interview. Rusesabagina is currently in prison in Rwanda awaiting trial.

‘Bound and gagged’

He has filed a lawsuit in Texas, where he has been living, against the charter company GainJet, alleging the company agreed to facilitate the plane journey because of its close relationship with officials in Rwanda.

“Paul was bound and gagged before the plane landed in Rwanda,” said his lawyer Robert Hilliard.

“The pilots have an international responsibility to every single one of the people on the plane.

They cannot be complicit with kidnappers and say go ahead and tie him up, go ahead and drug him, go ahead and bind him, go ahead and bind his feet and his hands and we’ll get you to Rwanda where you can then pretend he’s going to get a fair trial,” he added.

A similar case is expected be lodged in Belgium where Rusesabagina holds citizenship, reports the BBC’s Africa correspondent Catherine Byaruhanga.

GainJet has not responded to the BBC’s requests for comment.

Rwanda’s Justice Minister Johnston Busingye has denied that Rusesabagina was kidnapped and insisted he will get a fair trial on 26 January.

The 2004 film Hotel Rwanda told the story of how Rusesabagina, a middle-class Hutu married to a Tutsi woman, used his influence - and bribes - to convince military officials to secure a safe escape for an estimated 1,200 people who sought shelter at the Mille Collines Hotel in Kigali. - BBC

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