‘Hotel Rwanda’ figure to be released from prison

Paul Rusesabagina was held and tried by the Rwandan government in a case that drew international condemnation

Paul Rusesabagina, whose heroism in the face of genocide was portrayed in the Oscar-nominated film Hotel Rwanda, will be released from prison Saturday after being captured, held and tried by the Rwandan government in a case that drew international condemnation, the Rwandan government announced on Friday.

His release will end 2½ years in captivity for Mr Rusesabagina, who had moved to the US and become a staunch detractor of Rwanda’s long-time leader, Paul Kagame.

In August 2020, Mr Rusesabagina (68), was duped into travelling overseas on what he thought was a speaking trip, kidnapped by the Rwandan government, tortured and put on trial.

He was convicted on eight charges, including murder, kidnapping and belonging to a terrorist group, and sentenced to 25 years in prison. He pleaded not guilty to all the charges and denied the accusations against him.


Mr Rusesabagina will be released alongside 19 others with whom he was convicted on terrorism-related offences, Yolande Makolo, a spokesperson for the Rwandan government, said. She said that even though their prison sentences had been commuted, that does not “extinguish the underlying conviction”.

The release follows negotiations involving the White House, the Rwandan government, the government of Qatar and Mr Rusesabagina’s family.

He is expected to fly to the Qatari capital, Doha, on Saturday and then on to the United States, according to an official informed of the negotiations, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The official said the talks started at the end of 2022 and that a breakthrough came last week at a meeting between Kagame and the emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani.

Mr Rusesabagina’s release will come just weeks before Rwanda marks the 29th anniversary of the 1994 genocide. He was lauded for his role in sheltering and saving 1,268 people. That story became the genesis for the 2004 film Hotel Rwanda and brought him global recognition.

– This article originally appeared in The New York Times.