Hotel Rwanda ‘hero’ admits backing rebels but denies violence

Hotel Rwanda ‘hero’ admits backing rebels but denies violence
Paul Rusesabagina (AP)

The man portrayed as a hero in the film Hotel Rwanda has admitted in court that he backed a rebel group but denied he supported any violence or killings.

Paul Rusesabagina, in a pink prison uniform for his bail hearing on Friday, told the court in Kigali, the capital, that he helped to form the National Liberation Front to help Rwandan refugees but said he never supported violence.

The judge has postponed ruling on his application for bail until October 2.

Rusesabagina, a Belgian citizen and US permanent resident who has been a critic of President Paul Kagame, is charged with 13 offences that also include financing terrorism, complicity in murder, recruiting child soldiers and forming a rebel group.

If convicted, he faces a maximum of 25 years in prison.

It is unclear when his trial will begin.

Rusesabagina, 66, has lived outside Rwanda since 1996 but appeared in the east African country in handcuffs on August 31.

Earlier this month, he described how he disappeared while visiting Dubai and then turned up days later in Rwanda, a country his family said he would never return to voluntarily.

Speaking to The New York Times with Rwandan authorities present, he said he thought the private plane he boarded in Dubai was going to Bujumbura, Burundi, where he had planned to speak to churches at a pastor’s invitation.

Instead, Rusesabagina stepped out of the plane and was surrounded by Rwandan soldiers, the report said.

He said he was then tied up, could not see anything and did not know where he was.

The Rwandan court has said he was arrested at Kigali International Airport, contradicting the earlier police version that he was arrested through “international co-operation”.

Mr Kagame earlier this month indicated Rusesabagina may have been tricked into boarding the plane, adding; “It was actually flawless.”

Human Rights Watch has asserted Rusesabagina was “forcibly disappeared”, saying the lack of lawful extradition proceedings suggests Rwandan authorities do not believe their evidence would stand up to independent scrutiny.

Rusesabagina had asked to be released on bail, citing poor health that has caused him to be taken to a hospital three times since his arrest.

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