On Monday, a court in Kigali, the capital of Rwanda, sentenced Paul Rossbagina to 25 years in prison for “terrorism” after a trial described by his supporters as “political”. Rossbagina is the main character whose story was based on the Hollywood movie “Hotel Rwanda” and became a vocal opponent of Rwandan President Paul Kagame.
“The court concluded that the role of Rosespagina in the formation of the National Liberation Front, the provision of funds to the rebels and the procurement of communications equipment for them all constituted a crime of terrorist acts,” said Beatrice Mukamorenzi, one of the three judges at the Kigali court.
Mukamorenzi added that the prosecution had demanded that the former manager of the hotel in Kigali be imprisoned for life, but the court decided to “reduce the sentence to 25 years in prison,” noting that Rosspagina confessed to committing some of the crimes attributed to him and apologized for it, stressing that the conviction is his first. .
Rosespaginas conviction is the most severe in this case, in which 20 other defendants were sentenced to prison terms ranging from three to 20 years.
Neither Rossabagina nor his defense team attended the verdict reading, and they boycotted the hearings from March and denounced a “political” trial made possible due to his “kidnapping” organized by the Rwandan authorities as well as his ill-treatment in detention.
Rosspagina, 67, was tried in Kigali from February to July, along with twenty others, on charges of supporting the rebel National Liberation Front, accused of carrying out bloody attacks in Rwanda that left nine people dead in 2018 and 2019.
Ruisabaginas adopted daughter Karen Kanimba said her father’s guilty verdict was “decided” by President Paul Kagame. “I was not surprised at all. We were expecting that exactly. Kagame kidnapped my father. The judges decided what the dictator wanted to decide,” she added. Belgium, whose nationality is Rosspagina and where he lives in exile, considered that the latter “did not enjoy a fair and equitable trial.”
For her part, Rwandan government spokeswoman Yolande McCullough tweeted that “Rwandans feel safer now that justice has been served.”
Commenting on the ruling, Kate Gibson, a lawyer for Rosespagina, said: “The only thing that has been surprising in watching this horror show over the past year is the insolence and openness shown by the Rwandan authorities willing to violate all the fair trial rights that Paul deserved.” he said,
Amnesty International criticized the proceedings, pointing out that Rossipagina was initially denied the right to choose his lawyer.
She noted that comments by Rwandan President Paul Kagame that Rossabagina had committed a grave sin and a heinous crime “may have harmed the accused’s right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty.”
US State Department spokesman Ned Price said the “lack of fair trial guarantees calls into question the fairness of the sentence,” and urged the Rwandan government to examine the “shortcomings” of the case, including not impeding communication with lawyers and access to case documents.
For her part, Belgian Foreign Minister Sophie Willems said that Rosespagina, who holds the nationality of his country, did not receive a fair and equitable trial.
It should be noted that the Hollywood movie “Hotel Rwanda” in 2004, how this moderate, belonging to the Hutu ethnicity, managed to save the lives of more than a thousand people who took refuge in the hotel he ran in the capital during the genocide that killed about 800,000 people. Most of them are Tutsi, in 1994.