Rwandan dissident Paul Rusesabagina, who was arrested last month, appeared Monday in court to face charges related to terrorism.
Rusesabagina, 66, appeared before a judge at Kagarama Primary Court in the capital Kigali, who read him 13 charges, including terrorism, forming an armed organization and recruiting people into an armed group, issuance of orders in the act of terrorism, complicity to murder, and arson among others.
The Rwanda Investigation Bureau announced the arrest of Rusesabagina on Aug.31, on suspicion of being a founder, leader, sponsor, or member of extremist terror outfits including the Rwandan Movement for Democratic Change (MRCD) and PDR-Ihumure, operating out of various places in the region and abroad.
The prosecution states that Rusesabagina orchestrated serious crimes against unarmed, innocent Rwandan civilians in the southern districts of Nyaruguru in June 2018 and in Nyungwe, Nyamagabe district in December 2018.
At the opening of Monday’s pre-trial hearing, defense lawyers questioned the court’s jurisdiction to try their client, saying Rusesabagina was not a Rwandan resident and he was not in the country when the alleged crimes were committed.
The defense lawyers also cited “discrepancies” in the charges, telling the court that Rusesabagina should not be held culpable for crimes committed by parties which had entered a partnership with his own party, PDR-Ihumure, to which the prosecution objected.
The defense lawyers demanded the immediate release of their client.
However, after a short adjournment, the court ruled in favor of the prosecution to go ahead with the pre-trial hearing.
The prosecution asked the court to remand the suspect as investigations into his alleged crimes continue.
Rusesabagina holds Belgian citizenship and a US Green Card.
He worked at Hotel des Mille Collines in the capital Kigali during the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi ethnic group.
Rusesabagina took charge of the hotel from April 16, 1994, a week after the genocide – in which more than 1 million people were killed.
He gained fame after the 2004 Hollywood film Hotel Rwanda.
In the film, he is portrayed as a brave man who did his best to save the threatened Tutsi who had sought refuge in the hotel.
He claims to have rescued 1,200 Tutsi who had sought refuge in the hotel, using his influence as its manager to bribe and convince military officials to secure a safe escape.
But survivors at the hotel say Rusesabagina did not hide or save Tutsi from the genocide.
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