Rwanda to release Paul Rusesabagina from prison on Saturday
Paul Rusesabagina's 25-year prison sentence has been commuted by the Rwandese government. A government spokesperson confirmed on Friday that the Belgian Rwandan known for the film 'Hotel Rwanda', will be released on Saturday. He will be flown to Doha, and then to the United States.
Rusesabagina was arrested in Kigali in August 2020 as he stepped off a plane he thought was heading to Burundi. Afterwards, he was sentenced to 25 years in prison for terrorism by a Rwandan court. His supporters maintain that the trial was a sham fraught with irregularities.
Since his conviction, several countries, including Belgium, have been demanding Rusesabagina's release. In a statement, a spokesperson for the Rwandese government credits the United States for its "constructive role" during the negotiations.
"No one should be under any illusion about what this means, as there is consensus that serious crimes were committed, for which they were convicted," the spokesperson added. "Under Rwandan law, commutation of a sentence does not extinguish the underlying conviction."
Rusesabagina became famous for the 2004 film 'Hotel Rwanda', where he is portrayed by Don Cheadle. The film tells the story of how Rusesabagina, who ran the Hotel Mille Collines, saved more than a thousand people during the 1994 genocide.
Rusesabagina, who has been an opponent of President Paul Kagame for more than 20 years, used his fame in Hollywood to give his views global resonance. Before his arrest, he lived in exile in the United States and Belgium, where he worked as a taxi driver.
© Simon Wohlfahrt / AFP