‘Hotel Rwanda’ film hero Rusesabagina sentenced to 25 years in jail on terrorism charges

Paul Rusesabagina (L), portrayed as a humanitarian in the controversial Oscar-nominated film "Hotel Rwanda," discusses with his lawyer at a court in Kigali, Rwanda, on Sept. 14, 2020. (Xinhua/Cyril Ndegeya)

A Rwandan court sentenced Paul Rusesabagina, a one-time hotel manager portrayed as a hero in a Hollywood film about the 1994 genocide, to 25 years in prison on terrorism charges.

Rusesabagina was earlier on Monday found guilty of forming a rebel group accused of fatal gun, grenade and arson attacks in Rwanda in 2018 and 2019. Neither he nor his lawyers were present in court for the verdict.

FILE PHOTO: Paul Rusesabagina (L), portrayed as a humanitarian in the controversial Oscar-nominated film “Hotel Rwanda,” discusses with his lawyer at a court in Kigali, Rwanda. /Xinhua

The 67-year-old is expected to appeal against the sentence. He has denied all the charges and claimed he was kidnapped from Dubai to stand trial.

Rusesabagina’s family has repeatedly argued that the trial is revenge by a vindictive government for his critical views against it.

Rwandan prosecutors had sought a life sentence for Rusesabagina, who accused President Kagame of authoritarian tendencies from exile after being portrayed by actor Don Cheadle in the film “Hotel Rwanda” in which he is credited with saving more than 1,200 lives during the genocide.

He fled Rwanda in 1996, living in Belgium and then the United States.

The United States, the European Parliament and Belgium have previously expressed their concerns about Rusesabagina’s transfer to Rwanda and the fairness of his trial.

Following the sentencing, Belgium said Rusesabagina did not get a ‘fair’ trial.

(Story compiled with input from agencies)