Paul Rusesabagina, Hotel Rwanda protagonist, arrested on terrorism charges

Rwanda said on Monday it had detained Paul Rusesabagina — the man who was hailed a hero in a Hollywood movie about the country’s 1994 genocide — on terrorism charges and paraded him in front of media in handcuffs.

On Monday, two police officers brought the 66-year-old to the headquarters of Rwanda Investigations Bureau and let media film him and take photographs.

Rusesabagina, who wore a facemask, did not speak. He has in the past said he is the victim of a smear campaign in Rwanda. The government has called him a “manufactured hero.”

“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 bureau’s spokesperson, Thierry Murangira, told journalists.

He said Rusesabagina would face several charges including “terrorism, financing terrorism … arson, kidnap and murder.”

He did not say how or where Rusesabagina was arrested.

Accused of supporting armed rebels

Rusesabagina was played by Don Cheadle in the Oscar-nominated film Hotel Rwanda, released in 2004. The film told the story of how he used his job as a hotel manager at the Mille Collines hotel in Kigali, as well as his connections with the Hutu elite, to protect Tutsis fleeing the slaughter.

Rusesabagina moved abroad after the genocide and won worldwide acclaim, receiving the United States’ highest civilian award, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, in 2005. He also wrote a memoir, An Ordinary Man.

But back home, he has sparked outrage with warnings of another genocide, this time by Tutsis against Hutus. He has drawn criticism from some genocide survivors and President Paul Kagame,who accused him of exploiting the genocide for commercial gain.

In 2010, the prosecutor general told Reuters that authorities had evidence Rusesabagina had funded terrorist groups, though no charges were brought.

Rusesabagina is shown at the Berlin Film Festival on Feb. 11, 2005 to promote Hotel Rwanda, alongside lead actor Don Cheadle. (Michael Kappeler/DDP/AFP/Getty Images)

Authorities have since said he had a role in a string of alleged attacks by National Liberation Front (FLN) rebels in southern Rwanda along the border with Burundi in 2018.

Rusesabagina, whose father was Hutu but mother and wife were Tutsi, has denied exaggerating his role in rescuing Tutsis. He has not publicly responded to the charges of supporting armed groups.

About 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were butchered in 100 days in the central African nation from April 6, 1994.

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Johny Watshon

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