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Rwanda seeks to try ‘Hotel Rwanda’ hero with 18 rebels

Paul Rusesabagina, portrayed as a hero in a Hollywood movie about Rwanda’s 1994 genocide, is escorted in handcuffs from the courtroom in Kigali, Rwanda September 25, 2020. [Reuters]

Rwanda’s top prosecutor will seek to merge the case of Paul Rusesabagina, depicted as a hero in a Hollywood movie about the country’s 1994 genocide and now on trial for terrorism, with that of former rebels in state custody, he said on Monday.

Prosecutor General Aimable Havugiyaremye said he plans to submit a joint indictment of Rusesabagina along with 18 other Rwandans whom he described as fighters of the National Liberation Front, the militant arm of the political party the Rwanda Movement for Democratic Change (MRCD).

“We believe that all 19 defendants should be tried together. This is a common practice known as the principle of connectivity of offences which is provided for in our laws,” he said.

Havugiyaremye said that Rusesabagina’s charges were related to his leadership role in what he described as “the armed group known as MRCD/FLN”, which was formed about three years ago.

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On Friday, Rusesabagina testified at his trial that he had backed opposition groups including the MRCD, but he denied any involvement in violence.

He was denied bail on Friday for a second time, with the judge citing the risk that he could escape.

The prosecutor also said Rusesabagina was free to choose his defence lawyers and to change them at any time.

Rusesabagina, who says he was tricked into returning to Rwanda from abroad, has been denied his choice of defence lawyers, his family and their lawyer told an online news conference last week. His defence team was appointed by the government of Rwanda.

Rusesabagina has been a strong critic of the government led since the genocide by Paul Kagame, whose credit for returning Rwanda to stability after the genocide and boosting economic growth has been tainted by accusations of widespread repression. 

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