The family of Paul Rusesabagina – hailed a hero in a Hollywood movie about Rwanda’s 1994 genocide – has demanded that authorities in Kigali charge him in an international court after his sudden detention, his son told Reuters on Wednesday.
Rusesabagina, a former hotel manager, was played by Don Cheadle in the Oscar-nominated film ‘Hotel Rwanda’, which told how he used his job and his connections with the Hutu elite to protect Tutsis fleeing the slaughter.
Rwandan police said on Monday that Rusesabagina – who called for armed resistance to the now Tutsi-led government in a 2018 YouTube video – had been arrested on terrorism charges on an international warrant. His family accuses Rwanda of kidnapping him, saying they last heard from him in Dubai.
The Rwanda Investigation Bureau said he would face several charges including “terrorism, financing terrorism … arson, kidnap and murder”.
“If the Rwandan government think they have a solid case against him on terrorism charges or financing of terrorism, then they have to take it to an international court,” Roger Rusesabagina, his elder son, told Reuters in an interview.
Officials in Kigali were not immediately available to comment.
The younger Rusesabagina said the Rwandan government’s past attempts to charge their father internationally have flopped.
“They tried to bring up the charges in Belgium and the charges were dismissed because they didn’t make any sense. The United States did not find those charges to be believable,” he said.
The Belgian foreign ministry said Rwanda had informed Belgium of the arrest but declined to comment further.
Rusesabagina, a Belgian citizen who resides in Texas, US, was not likely to get justice in his country of birth, given the manner in which that he was moved to Kigali, the son said.
“Kidnapping should not be the solution,” he said.
He has been a strong critic of President Paul Kagame’s government, whose credit for returning the country to stability after the genocide and boosting economic growth, has been tainted by accusations of widespread repression.
Kagame won nearly 99% of the vote in the last election. One of his main opponents, Diane Rwigara, was jailed with her mother for more than a year on charges that judges later dismissed.
Rusesabagina’s family said it was now their turn to speak up for him.
“That voice of the voiceless is being shut down so he is going to need us to be his voice for a while,” said Tresor Rusesabagina, his youngest son.