'Hotel Rwanda' prototype character freed from Rwandan jail
Rwandan President Paul Kagame has pardoned jailed Paul Rusesabagina, a former hotelier portrayed as a hero in the film "Hotel Rwanda", a cabinet communique issued by the Office of the Prime Minister announced late Friday.
Rusesabagina inspired the film "Hotel Rwanda" for saving over 1,000 ethnic Tutsis during the 1994 Rwandan Genocide against the Tutsi, which claimed more than 1 million lives. However, survivors and experts disputed the story as exaggerated.
Rusesabagina alongside 19 other co-accused members of a rebel group - the National Liberation Front (FLN), a military wing of Movement for Democratic Change and the Party for Democracy (MRCD), are to be released on a presidential pardon. The decision of early release was approved at a cabinet meeting on Friday chaired by Kagame.
The presidential pardon also saw 361 convicted in unrelated cases and various offenses have their sentences commuted, according to the statement.
Rusesabagina who was serving a 25-year jail sentence was in September 2021 convicted on eight counts related to acts of terrorism committed by the FLN in 2018 which claimed the lives of nine civilians in Rwanda's southwest.
Rusesabagina testified at trial that he helped to form the armed group to assist refugees but said he never supported violence.
In a letter written by Rusesabagina to Kagame in October 2022 to request a pardon that was released by the Rwandan Ministry of Justice on Friday, Rusesabagina said he wished to express regret for any connection with the MRCD.
"As a former head of MRCD, I regret not taking more care to ensure that the MRCD coalition fully adhered to the principles of non-violence in which I fully and deeply believe, and have always ascribed," Rusesabagina wrote.
"If I am granted a pardon and released, I understand fully that I will spend the remainder of my days in the United States in quiet reflection," he continued. "I can assure you through this letter that I hold no personal or political ambitions otherwise. I will leave questions regarding Rwandan politics behind me."
Until his arrest, he had long been living overseas and was the subject of an international arrest warrant for alleged terrorism, arson, kidnap, and murder, perpetrated against civilians on Rwandan territory.
(With input from agencies)
(Cover: Paul Rusesabagina (R), portrayed as a hero in a Hollywood movie about Rwanda's 1994 genocide, is escorted in handcuffs into a courtroom, in Kigali, Rwanda, October 20, 2020. /Reuters)