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Controversial hero of Hotel Rwanda movie sentenced to 25 years in jail over terrorism offences

The High Court Chamber for International Crimes has delivered its verdict on 21 defendants who, as members of the National Liberation Front (FLN), including the controversial hero of Hotel Rwanda movie, Paul Rusesabagina who have been accused of terrorism charges.Rusesabagina, in a verdict late Monday was sentenced to twenty-five years. Prior to the trial, the defendant publicly admitted to founding the group as the armed wing of his political party, the MRCD (Rwandan Movement for Democratic Change). He had repeatedly expressed support for the group’s activities, including after the 2018 attacks.

Among those sentenced also include the FLN’s commander and spokesperson, Callixte Nsabimana, who was arrested in 2019.

Prior to this, he had claimed responsibility for the 2018 attacks, and had announced plans for further attacks. He was sentenced to twenty years in prison, having pleaded guilty to most charges.

In a related development, Rwanda on Tuesday called off a scheduled meeting between the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Rwanda and Belgium in response to comments made by Sophie Wilmès, the Belgian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Belgium, on the verdict of Paul Rusesabagina. 

The reaction came after the Belgian officials said that Rusesabagina, who was sentenced to 25 years in prison on Monday on terror-related charges, did not ‘receive a fair and due trial’.

A statement released by Rwanda’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation says the remarks by Wilmès are in contempt of Rwanda’s judicial system and Kigali won’t take it sitting down.

“The statement of the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Belgium regarding today’s verdict by Rwanda’s High Court Chamber for International and Cross-Border Crimes, reflects the contempt shown by the Government of the Kingdom of Belgium towards the Rwandan judicial system since the start of this trial, despite the significant contribution of relevant Belgian institutions to the investigation of this case,”

“The victims of the terrorist acts of the FLN, admittedly less famous, have just as much right to justice as Mr. Rusesabagina and his co-defendants. For this reason, a scheduled bilateral meeting at ministerial level, on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, will no longer take place,” the statement reads.

It added, however, that the Government of Rwanda remains ready to welcome to Rwanda the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Belgium at a convenient time, to continue the dialogue between the two countries.

Published on 10.02.2021

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